Head of USCG warns that US not ready to tackle an oil spill in Arctic

The head of the US Coast Guard (USCG) has warned that the US is not ready to tackle the environmental consequences of an oil spill in Arctic waters.

Admiral Paul Zukunft told a forum of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Washington DC that conditions in the frozen northern region would be far more difficult than those encountered in other places.

Speaking from his experience as the federal on-scene co-ordinator for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, Admiral Zukunft said that that incident – when an oil rig exploded and a well gushed crude from the ocean floor for nearly three months – managed to recover only 15% of the spilled oil.

That was in calm conditions and with 6,000 ships helping in the recovery operation, the admiral said. A similar event in the Arctic would have to contend with much more hostile weather and wildlife, not to mention much less infrastructure. Fewer vessels and people would be able to help.

Last week the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) approved Italian company Eni’s plan to drill in the Beaufort Sea.

That fell in line with US President Donald Trump’s executive order in April calling for loosening of restrictions on E&P in the Arctic and the Atlantic.

Donal Scully

With 28 years experience writing and editing for newspapers in the UK and Hong Kong, Donal is now based in California from where he covers the Americas for Splash as well as ensuring the site is loaded through the Western Hemisphere timezone.


  1. It would surely be very rash to ignore such a warning. Particularly when the oil price is as low as it is, suggesting that there is no great need to drill in the Arctic..

  2. The US is not responsible to clean this region, should a non-US flag vessel have a spill while in transit. If in US waters or a US flag, then surely yes. Bt that appear to be the case anytime soon.

    Here…again…where are the flag states and countries of origin where ships that wish to use this environmentally sensitive area come from? THEY have a responsibility, do they not. THEY must have a real plan that works, can be proven, resources in place and show what they can or cannot do.

    Why must US be the enviro-police?

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