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article image'A Whale' mega-skimmer arrives in Gulf of Mexico, testing begins

By Kay Mathews     Jul 3, 2010 in Environment
The modified ship is being hailed as the "world's largest skimming vessel" and is being tested in waters north of the oil spill to see if it can safely skim 21M gallons of oil per day.
The 1,100-foot long tanker, called "A Whale," was designed to carry iron ore and crude oil. However, according to ABC News, after hearing about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, "the owner of the ship, mysterious Taiwanese billionaire Nobu Su, ordered his engineers to cut vents in the bow and redesign the tanks inside, creating the largest skimming vessel in the world."
The offer by Nobu Su and his company, TMT Shipping, was accepted by U.S. government officials on the condition that tests be conducted to see if the modified ship will work for skimming purposes. As mentioned in the video above, "this type of retrofitting has not been done before."
According to ABC News, Adm. Thad Allen, the national incident commander, said, "We're anxious to find out how effective it will be. But it is a very large ship that's been converted to be able to recover oil, and we'll see how it goes."
CNN reports that the A Whale arrived in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday and testing took place Saturday and Sunday. Initial test results are expected on July 5.
Bob Grantham, a spokesman for TMT Shipping, was quoted by CNN as saying, the A Whale works by "taking in oily water through a series of vents, or jaws, on the side of the ship and then decanting the intake. In many ways, the ship collects water like an actual whale and pumps internally like a human heart."
Moreover, the massive ship "is estimated to be able to skim 21 million gallons of oil a day, at least 250 times the amount that modified fishing vessels currently conducting skimming operations have been able to contain" notes CNN.
TMT means "Today Makes Tomorrow." The testing of the A Whale today may bring hope and help to the people of the Gulf facing many tomorrows filled with the consequences of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.
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