DAUPHIN ISLAND, Alabama (WALA) - There are some concerns about the Vessels of OpportunityProgram, and exactly how it works.
Some people say they have gone through training for the program,but haven't been called to help out with oil clean-up. Some ofthose people are commercial fishermen, who feel they should becalled out before people with recreational boats because the oilhas taken away their only means of income .
Even more people are upset that they've seen boats that aren'tfrom this area filled with crews working on clean-up efforts.
"That Sea Tow boat is from New Jersey," said Charter BoatCaptain Chip Deupree.
Dupree runs a charter boat out of Dauphin Island. He says hesigned up for the Vessels of Opportunity Program two weeks ago, buthasn't heard back from BP.
"Several weeks ago when this program started we were told thatit was put together to put out of work fishermen back on the waterto make up for their losses, that sounds like a great plan right?But now we can't get anyone from BP to call us back for when thatday does come," said Dupree.
Dupree said his business is suffering, and he can't understandwhy he and other commercial fishermen haven't been called tohelp.
"Everybody should be given the opportunity to make money. I feellike the people that are legitimately put out of business by thisspill should be given first choice in this whole thing and Ichallenge anybody to tell me I'm wrong," added Dupree.
BP spokesperson Ray Melick said BP's plan from the beginning hasbeen to call on local commercial fishermen first, but he says somepeople "slipped through the cracks".
"One of the things we've found is that for example someone maybe living in Minnesota and his boat is registered in some state buthe's got it docked in Bayou La Batre, well then our guys say wellyou're a local boat then later on they found out he's not, but hehappens to be docked here, so there have been cases of slipups andpeople getting through," said Melick.
Melick said some vessels from other areas may not even beinvolved with BP's Vessels of Opportunity Program. That's why hesaid BP is in the process of getting flags to distinguish Vesselsof Opportunity from other boats.
"We are getting calls about boats that aren't our VOO vessels,they're a city that's hired its own ships to go do some clean-upand we're getting yelled at about that and that's not our fleet.Now there's no way to tell them apart so that's easilyunderstandable but you know it is important to know there are otherentities hiring vessels as well," explained Melick.
Melick said in some cases, large commercial boats cannot be useddue to the nature of the job that needs to be done.
"You're not going to call a pontoon boat to go out to deepwater, and you're not going to get a shrimp boat to go up in themarshes and if there aren't enough of a specific type of boat thatwe're in need of for the VOO operation, then you may have to gooutside that local area, that port and you have to go out of state,but that's not the priority and has not been," Melick said.
BP said on Tuesday, there were 819 Vessels of Opportunitydeployed in Alabama, and 363 in Florida.
Monday, BP reported just under 2,000 vessels deployed acrossAlabama, Florida, and Mississippi. That number fluctuates dependingon what is needed on any given day.
Vessels are picked form a pool of everyone who has signed up forthe program. There is no guarantee how many times you'll be called,or how long you'll work.
BP is not taking anymore applications to join the Vessels ofOpportunity Program.
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