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U.S. Accepts International Assistance for Oil Spill

12:22 PM, Jun 30, 2010 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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Today, 70 days into the oill spill in the Gulf, the U.S. accepted international assistance from 12 countries and foreign organizations to help with the mess.

The State Department has not yet identified exactly which ones. Another offer of help, the largest skimmer in the world— the A-Whale, reportedly capable of cleaning 500,000 barrels of oil from the Gulf per day— will arrive today in the Gulf but needs clearance from the federal government before it can start its work.

The Coast Guard will not clear the Taiwan-owned ship – which is reportedly the length of 3 football fields and 10 stories high – to join the clean-up until it undergoes a test.

“The Coast Guard research and development center has a team of personnel that are ready to observe the tests to test the efficacy of the vessels systems, as well as its ability to safely operate in that area down there,” Coast Guard spokesman Ron LaBrec told The Daily Caller.

The ship's captain was hopeful clearance could be gotten for the ship during its trip from Norfolk to the Gulf, but it looks like testing will take place in the Gulf. The giant skimmer has never been used on a spill of this magnitude, but a spokesman for the Taiwanese company that owns it is speaking Barack Obama's language, so maybe that will help:

“I believe this spill is unprecedented and you need an unprecedented solution,“ said T.K. Ong, senior vice president for TMT.

The issue of international offers of help has been addressed several times during the oil spill, but it's never been terribly clear what the hold-up was in securing it. It is the State Department's duty to formally accept offers of international help, as it has done today, but the leadership in the Gulf must make the final decision on whether such help will be used on the ground, according to the State Department.

On May 27, ABC News reported that 17 countries had offered to help with the oil spill, yet offers from only two countries had been accepted. That night, ABC's Jake Tapper asked Obama about those offers of help, but got little in the way of an answer:

JAKE TAPPER: You say that everything that could be done is being done...And then, of course, there's the fact that there are 17 countries that have offered to help, and it's only been accepted from two countries, Norway and Mexico. How can you say that everything that can be done is being done with all these experts and all these officials saying that's not true?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, let me distinguish between -- if the question is, are we doing everything perfectly out there, then the answer is absolutely not.  We can always do better. 

If the question is, are we, each time there is an idea, evaluating it and making a decision, is this the best option that we have right now, based on how quickly we can stop this leak and how much damage can we mitigate, then the answer is yes...

So the point is, on each of these points that you just mentioned, if the job of our response team is to say, OK, if 17 countries have offered equipment and help, let's evaluate what they've offered, how fast can it get here; is it actually going to be redundant or will it actually add to the overall effort?
  
Because, in some cases, more may not actually be better, and decisions have been made, based on the best information available, that says, here's what we need right now; it may be that, a week from now or two weeks from now or a month from now the offers from some of those countries might be more effectively utilized.

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