BP Promises To Hire More Locals For Gulf Cleanup The company with the two-letter name seems more like a four-letter word to many residents along the Gulf Coast, especially those who earned their living fishing the waters that are now tainted with oil. So BP is making changes to its much maligned Vessels of Opportunity program and is hiring more local boats in the cleanup effort.
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BP Promises To Hire More Locals For Gulf Cleanup

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BP Promises To Hire More Locals For Gulf Cleanup

BP Promises To Hire More Locals For Gulf Cleanup

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, Host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Mary Louise Kelly.

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Some fishermen complained that they've applied to work on the cleanup operation, but have not been hired by BP. In BP's latest efforts to repair its image, the company is making changes and says it will include more local boats. NPR's David Schaper has more.

DAVID SCHAPER: Al Casan(ph) not only works on the water, he practically lives on it.

LOUISE KELLY: That's the gulf right here - well, not right here, but on the other side of that land.

SCHAPER: Casan's highly stilted home is the last in a row of elevated houses on the water's edge, just outside of Grand Isle on the Louisiana Gulf Coast.

LOUISE KELLY: And this would be Caminada Bay in the back of us. That's where I do most of my fishing.

SCHAPER: And Al Casan keeps two of the three boats he captains as a commercial fisherman right outside his door.

LOUISE KELLY: Well, this is one of my big boats. It's 20 by eight. It's an aluminum boat. It gets in real shallow water. And I put this one on the list.

SCHAPER: But not every one on the list has been getting hired, including Casan.

LOUISE KELLY: I really feel like the Vessels of Opportunity program is kind of like a song when it starts on the wrong note and ends on the wrong note.

SCHAPER: Casan says while he and other full-time commercial fishermen up and down the Gulf Coast sit by their idle boats, BP hires recreational boats, part- time fishermen, and even boats from far away.

LOUISE KELLY: Out of state, right. And they shuffle boats from this area to other areas, and from other areas to here. And you shouldn't have a guy from 50 miles away working this area, because I probably know it better than him.

SCHAPER: In an interview on Grand Isle's waterfront after he met with vessel operators, BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles told NPR the company is looking to increase the number of boats hired overall, especially those that can scoop up the oil.

LOUISE KELLY: We continue to add skimming capability every single day. We have over 550 right now. And we've got orders out there to get that up to 1,000.

SCHAPER: We asked why it took until just recently for BP to request and bring to the Gulf the huge skimming vessel from Taiwan called A Whale.

LOUISE KELLY: Well, there's been a lot of work, looking at these big tankers to see if they would work. And there's been some concern that for the type of spill we have, they're not the right tool. So what we are trying to do is match the right tool to this spill.

SCHAPER: As for the effort to finally stop the flow of oil and cap off the blown-out wellhead, Suttles says the drilling of relief wells continues to make slow but steady progress. And the first relief well should be completed on or ahead of schedule, in the first two weeks of August. Asked what if the relief wells fail, Suttles says...

LOUISE KELLY: With the containment systems we're working on now and with the relief wells, you know - as I said, you can't make absolutes or guarantees. But I think the probability of - barring a weather event - the probability of not bringing this to - the spillage - to a stop later this summer is very remote.

SCHAPER: David Schaper, NPR News, New Orleans.

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