Lacking Good Breeding & in Extremely Bad Taste
If you haven't already, read my own Gulf blog at http://blog.chess.com/m8ed/the-gulf---a-disaster-in-waiting before this. . .
And Now The Spillionaires: Shrimp boat owners in 'Forrest Gump' town make a fortune from BP payouts
(Courtesy of Fleet Street's Sunday Mail)
by Paul Thompson
It was the home town of Forrest Gump’s shrimp-loving friend Bubba Blue in the famous movie. But since the huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Bayou La Batre in Alabama has become home to a new breed of men known as the ‘Spillionaires’.
They are the shrimp boat owners who have prospered hugely from the millions of pounds handed out by BP.
While many British pensioners have seen the value of their pension funds fall because of the extraordinary decline of one of Britain’s biggest companies at the hands of despicable politicians and gold-diggers, the boat owners in the coastal hamlet have struck it rich.
Boatloads of cash: Fishing boats in the Bayou La Batre area of Alabama turned into oil skimmers - at a cost of more than $3,000 a day per boat.
By allowing their vessels to be used in the massive containment and clean-up operation, some have been paid hundreds of thousands of pounds for just three months’ work.
And deckhands - who would normally earn up to $75 a day working on shrimping or oyster boats - have been taking home triple that.
So much money has poured into Bayou La Batre that police and town officials now fear for its future.
It has led to greed and jealousy among the close-knit community where shrimp fishing has been the lifeblood for years.
Spencer Collier, the town’s state representative, said: ‘There are people here who have done very well out of the spill. We call them Spillionaires and in a short space of time they have earned more money than they would in a very very long time. That has led to a lot of jealousy and people have got very greedy. BP threw so much money at the problem that everyone wanted a slice of it.’
Before the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in April, the shrimping business in Bayou La Batre was already in sharp decline through American agricultural and industrial chemical pollution being delivered into the Gulf via the Mississippi and other rivers and wholly their own companies.
The average salary for its 2,300 residents, a third of whom are Vietnamese and Cambodian immigrants, was just over $22,000 a year - and the average house price just $42,000.
Boarded-up shop fronts and empty homes tell the real story of how the hamlet, which calls itself the seafood capital of Alabama, was already suffering in the economic downturn.
Bayou La Batre had previously achieved fame in the 1994 film Forrest Gump as Tom Hanks’ character launched his shrimping business there.
In 2005 the area was devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
After the oil spill, BP gave officials £5.5 million to pay for fishing crews to lay plastic booms across the water to stop the oil from reaching shore. The grant was the biggest single payout to any town in the region.
It was administered by mayor Stan Wright and, surprise surprise, he faced accusations of corruption when he awarded the bulk of the money to a company his brother worked for. He denied any wrongdoing and town officials said the claims were evidence of the greed and jealousy affecting the town.
Popular man: Stan Wright, the Bayou La Batre mayor given £5.5m to distribute by BP - and one of his many fans
Under a system worked out by BP, those with vessels over 22ft long were paid $1500 a day, while bigger boats were paid $3,000. Crew would get up to $300 a day.
Boat owner Captain Jack Gaines had eight vessels working for BP and is understood to have raked in more than $1.1million in three months. At least five others have earned a similar amount.
According to Mr Collier, 75 per cent of the town’s fishermen were employed by BP in the clean-up operation. Many people have gone on spending sprees, snapping up new cars or boat accessories.
THREE HUNDRED “fishing” licences were issued in just two weeks. Usually, one or two people apply for a licence but these were ambulance-chasing people who just wanted to get in on the act and make their claim for money. Even drug dealers have attempted to capitalise on the new wealth.
Captain Darryl Wilson, from Bayou La Batre police, said: ‘Before the spill a rock of crack cocaine was being sold on the street for $20. Now that same rock is going for $40. So much money has come into the town that they want to charge more.
‘It is crazy but when BP said they would set aside billions to pay compensation, it became a free-for-all.
‘Almost overnight we have an extra 2,000 people who came to Bayou La Batre because of work being offered by BP. When your town doubles in size, there is going to be more crime.’
He said the number of arrests had also doubled, adding: ‘This town is just about getting back on its feet after Katrina and I fear we will be right back where we started because of the problems caused by money.’
There is no shortage of residents seeking to get money from BP. It was just two months after the spill, officials received an unprecedented 300 applications for fishing licences.
One official commented: ‘There was no fishing taking place but these were people who just wanted a slice of the action from BP.
‘The 300 licences were issued in just two weeks. Usually, one or two people apply for a licence but these were people who just wanted to get in their claim for money.’
Local residents have also been encouraged to put in claims for financial compensation from the £15 billion BP has placed into an account being controlled by the US government.
But now that the oil leak has been plugged, the clean-up operation has all but ended. Many of the fishing areas are free from oil and will be opened in the next couple of weeks.
Mr Collier said: ‘The sooner this town can get back to normal, the better. Too much money has created problems that we don’t need.’