New Vessel Readied To Soak Up Gulf Oil Two storm systems are delaying efforts to connect the Helix Producer to the leaking BP well in the Gulf of Mexico. When the vessel is operational, it will double the amount of oil that cleanup crews can collect, officials say.
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New Vessel Readied To Soak Up Gulf Oil

The Coast Guard and BP are working to get a third vessel attached to the leaking well in the Gulf of Mexico. Officials say the new vessel could almost double the amount of oil being collected.

The vessel known as the Helix Producer is partly hooked up, but two storm systems have slowed the process. Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the man in charge of the federal cleanup effort, said 6-foot seas were causing problems, but he was hopeful the connection would be maintained.

For the moment, it's a waiting game.

"They will hold on to what they've got and wait for the weather window to finish that connection," Allen said. "It is weather-dependent. They are right at the margins of it right now. It is currently a work in progress."

The 528-foot, nearly 2,300-ton vessel can collect up to 25,000 barrels of oil a day. That would double the amount being collected, then burned or transferred to other tankers.

Allen said that once the Producer is operational, officials will have a better idea of how close their flow-rate estimates have been to reality. Those numbers will also help determine whether they should risk replacing the current containment cap at the seafloor.

As the oil flow continues -- and with tar balls turning up in Lake Pontchartrain as well as the Texas coast -- Lousiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said the state will submit an amended plan to allow the construction of rock dikes.

Last week, the Army Corps of Engineers rejected that idea, saying it might cause adverse effects. But Jindal said this time the plan includes an escrow account funded by BP to pay for any environmental damage the dikes might inflict.

With reporting from NPR's Kathy Lohr and The Associated Press