BP hires fishermen for rig clean-up operation

Look along the spectator stands inside the gym of the Boothville elementary school, and you will catch the name of the student basketball team painted in red and white. It's the Oilers. But no one was in the mood for humour yesterday, even of the dark kind. They wanted to get certification – and with it – work.

A little over 200 fishing boat captains were crammed at desks inside, almost like pupils waiting for the start of an exam. Instead, they were eyes and ears for David Kinnaird, a BP community outreach organiser, to get the morning's business started. If they take this basic safety course there is a decent chance the company will hire them and their boats to combat the oil spill spreading down the coast.

Not everyone will get to be taken on, he warns from the outset. But make no mistake, this is a big part of BP's effort to confront the storm of anger which is already battering it, 13 days after a rig it was operating nearly 50 miles out to sea blew up and sank, killing 11 men and releasing the oil slick which continues to menace coastlines here and to the east all the way to northern Florida.

"We are trying to put money back in your community; that is why we are here," Mr Kinnaird offered, before handing over to an interpreter brought in for the many Vietnamese who have boats in this area. "And we need your local knowledge, we need your boats and we need your crews."

Outside the doors to the gym, a gaggle of men is growing angry. The gym is full to capacity and they have not been allowed in, even though some inside are not from Plaquemines Parish, which covers all of the Delta peninsula as it extends south into the Gulf. Soon Mr Kinnaird comes out to calm nerves. "If we had turned anyone away, there would have been a riot," he contends.

Mr Kinnaird, a Briton who has lived in Texas for nearly 20 years, was probably right. There is a quiet fear among fishermen in the region, who have already seen one of their most important shrimping areas closed down because of the fast-approaching slick. Almost 25 per cent of the shrimp and oysters caught in the US come from their nets. They can make good money. But now they stand to be ruined.

As part of BP's ever-escalating budget for coping with what may become the biggest oil spill since the Exxon Valdez disaster, the company is preparing to hire hundreds of people like this. If their boat is less than 32ft, which mostly they are, they will be paid $1,200 (£785) a day, first to help lay the floating booms which will help to protect fragile wetlands as well as so-called sorbent pads, which absorb oil but not water.

For men like Jonathan Wilson, 37, who has been shrimping here in Plaquemine Parish all his adult life, the offer from BP may almost turn out to be an opportunity for a job change that he could not have imagined before the crumpling of the Deepwater Horizon rig on 20 April. "Honestly, I would rather work for BP than catch shrimp. The price of shrimp has been down recently."

That doesn't mean there is not frustration with BP among the residents. Like many, Mr Wilson, whose boat is a 27ft Lafitte skiff, is clear that the company was too slow reacting to the spill and equally tardy in turning to people like him for help. "I think they have been much too slow, they should have done all of this the day they knew that they weren't going to be able to shut that oil off."

Mr Kinnaird, who has promised those locked out of the gym that a second training class will start in the afternoon, agrees that the fishing community offers BP an important resource. "They know when the tide will take the oil out and bring it again, for instance. We want to put all that experience to work."

He declined to say how much the company is prepared to pay for the armada it is now assembling from these men. When Mr Wilson and others like Barry Labruzzo, 32, who has fished waters off a neighbouring parish for 15 years and also faces professional ruin, finish here they will be a handed a certificate saying they have taken the basic training.

The piece of paper will be replaced by a more formal card in a couple of days. By then, with luck, they will be out on the water already laying the booms and the pads. Assuming the slick is eventually controlled and dispersed they will turn to the next job: cleaning up the mess the slick will most certainly leave behind. It could take years.

From lehman to BP, the face of disaster

When Andrew Gowers left the 'Financial Times' in 2005 after four years as editor, he might have thought entering corporate public relations would offer a quieter life than the turmoil of newspapers. Little did he know he would find himself as the PR front man for two of the largest, and most pored-over, corporate disasters in recent history: the collapse of the Lehman Brothers investment bank and, now, the Louisiana oil spill from a rig leased by his present employer, BP.

In what must count as one of the more arduous of career progressions, Mr Gowers, 53, joined Lehman as head of communications in 2006, and witnessed first-hand the bank's implosion in 2008. He subsequently revealed that the day before the collapse, he spent hours on the phone assuring journalists that the bank was safe, only to be told hours later by its chief executive that it was about to go bust.

Now, Mr Gowers finds himself doing the media firefighting for Britain's largest oil company as it faces the ramifications of the largest oil spill in its history. He is unlikely to be paying too much attention to the advice of his predecessor in the post, Roddy Kennedy, who said: "Very often doing nothing is the best course of action. Always take plenty of time to think before you act."

News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Field of broken dreams: Andy Bell visits Passchendaele
news5 News's Andy Bell visited the killing fields of the Great War, and his ancestor - known only from his compelling war diary - came to life
Travel
travel
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In my grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel