On the Prestige problem.

by Raul M. Nuñez Sheriff

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) ought to (should, must) inmediately make available to its NATO partner Spain, all necessary means at its disposal for the removal of the oil slick from the tanker Prestige, sunken of the Galician coast. Half a dozen international class ships in the USCG ought to (should, must) be moved into position inmediately in the vicinity of the gulf of Biscay and Cantabrian Sea. This will enable better communications, search and rescue operational range in the event of a portracted conflict. Additionally it will enhance the impression of American good will and facilitate greater integration of military resources, equipment and intelligence. It is even possible some significant advantages would be reached in drug interdiction efforts (the Galician coast is notorious for certain contraband and so is Gibraltar).

So the USCG must inmediately deploy what it can to help contain, mitigate and cleanup the ecological disaster caused by the sinking. Greece, Panama, Estonia, Liberia, Britain, Spain and Portugal are all responsible. The US certainly is not responsible, but several of her allies are, helping out fosters good will and this is a good thing to gain just now. The Americans get to burnish their environmental credentials under a Bush no less!

Furthermore, the gesture cannot be refused and the advantages can be explicitly enumerated:

First, it benefits Spain in a moment of obvious need by making available valuable resources, technology, equipment and material assets they lack and need urgently.

Second, it benefits US-Spain relations and Spain is a NATO ally that is supportive in the efforts to erradicate terrorism.

Third, it benefits the EU by helping mitigate and contain an ecological disaster of great magnitude which directly affects several of its most important members.

Fourth, it directly benefits the US by facilitating their forward deployment of vital naval assets in the ongoing conflict.

Fifth, it benefits NATO by enabling their deployments in the Mediterranean to be enhanced (and this will be a military theatre in the Iraq showdown), and

Sixth, it enhances the appearance this war on terror effort is more interdisciplinary -its not just about brute force.

The costs to the US in terms of additional expenditures may be quantified in the hundreds of millions of dollars, yet this is primarily in securing a forward deployment of invaluable strategic advantage in the ongoing war on terror.

Obviously the immediate deployment from Norfolk of everything the USCG has in the manner of containment booms, tugs, cranes, suction vessels, helicopters, dry docks (to lift and remove the wreck), ecological study vessels, to begin monitoring the damage, and the extensive remedial measures to counter the ecological devastation -would be a good idea, could be a great help, looks good too.

A slew of tenders, and other vessels in support to coordinate and supply, monitor regular commercial transAtlantic traffic. All of this equipment ought to be made available as soon as possible for salvage and removal of the sunken tanker and environmental cleanup.

It will be a costly and substantial effort (probably about half as expensive as the Exxon Valdez debacle). But when adjusted for inflation and considering the military advantages gained by the invaluable forward deployment in both Portugal and Spain of important monitoring, communications and control equipment of military application in the inmediate future.

Its great PR too! The 'Evil Empire' can, at a relatively minor cost (shipping some containment booms and volunteering half a dozen ships) burnish its image as an ecologically concerned state.

The USCG will gain useful experience and make use of consumable resources without incurring additional costs other than their effort.

The USCG will provide a great gain to an ally, a friend who has expressed support in the ongoing efforts to erradicate international terror and -has made available inestimable resources in the manner of an air corridor to the heart of the matter at hand.

The US gains the forward deployment of valuable military resources, encroaching into the mouth of the Mediterranean in a beautiful gesture of international environmental solidarity at minimal cost.

Additionally, the US gets to show the France and the EU that 'allies' means more than just military commitment. In this crusade against terror it is necessary to unify efforts and work together. The US needs international solidarity in all sorts of efforts, from tax enforcement to licensing and accreditations, the EU can learn, the US showcase technology, NATO's Atlantic components can be jointly exercised to great gain, equipment that ordinarily gets recycled anyway, can be deployed to great benefit.

So this is the plan:

Mobilize the Coast Guard on the Eastern Seaboard, from Mexico to Canada and soke up every vessel they have that can be of any use in the containment efforts of the oil slick. Inmediately contact naval counterparts in NATO (Spain, Portugal, Britain, France, even Belgium and Italy) to coordinate efforts. Move in a mobile headquarters and invite the Spanish admiral to coordinate efforts in the containment effort. The rest of NATO is invited too, we can use some troops in deploying the booms, picking up all those dead birds and removing the fish. There are special detergents and bacteria the USCG has and deploys which would be of great help just now.

Can the oil be removed, has it condensed, can it be pumped out, maybe even salvaged or at least recycled? The US can and should contribute to the effort its in their own benefit. The US can offer a good example of international solidarity and concern for the environment (quite a coup if you ask me).

The USCG's Juniper (WLB 201) and Willow (WLB 202) out of Newport, RI, as well as the Elm (WLB 204) from Atlantic Beach, NC ought to put out immediately to assist in the containment efforts other search and rescue vessels and equipment could be readily deployed to help from Galicia.

This needs to be done urgently right now.