With no assurances it will be allowed to join the Gulf of Mexico oil spill cleanup, a Taiwanese-owned ship billed as the world's largest skimming vessel was preparing to sail Friday evening to the scene of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.The A Whale holds a million barrels of oil. Another story from Virginia notes:
The 'A Whale' skimmer, 3 1/2 football fields long and 10 stories tall, was photographed in Norfolk, Va., on Friday. June 25 2010
The ship -- the length of 3 1/2 football fields and 10 stories high -- is designed to collect up to 500,000 barrels of oily water a day through 12 vents on either side of its bow. It docked in Norfolk en route to the Gulf from Portugal, where it was retrofitted to skim the seas. The ship and its crew of 32 were to leave Virginia waters Friday evening.
The owners of the "A Whale" said the ship features a new skimming approach that has never been attempted on such a large scale. They are anxious to put it to its first test in the Gulf.
"We really have to start showing people what we can do," said Bob Grantham, project coordinator for TMT Group, a Taiwan-based shipping company.
The company is still negotiating with the Coast Guard to join the cleanup and does not have a contract with BP to perform cleanup work. The company also needs environmental approval and waiver of a nearly century-old law aimed at protecting U.S. shipping interests.
America's can-do spirit is alive and well....in Taiwan.
Nobu Su, the CEO and founder of TMT Group, a Taiwanese shipping company, described the engineering behind his latest creation as "totally not common sense and totally against the rules."
Speaking in shirt sleeves and a blue baseball cap on the docks of Norfolk International Terminals, Su was referring to the special holes he had cut into the sides of his massive vessel, named A Whale.
As designed, the giant skimmer would roll across the Gulf "like a lawn mower cutting the grass," Su said, ingesting millions of gallons of oily water through the small slits.
The tainted water would then fall into huge storage tanks in the belly of the ship. There, oil would separate from sea water. The toxic stuff would be collected and disposed of, the water returned to the Gulf.
"A large-scale disaster needs a large-scale solution," Su told a crowd of reporters, shipping executives and regulators.
A Whale could handle 500,000 barrels of oily water a day, or slightly less than what all the skimmers now in the Gulf have gathered in more than 60 days on the job, Su said.
A no-brainer? Not quite.
Because the vessel is Taiwanese and was built in South Korea, it needs an exemption from the Jones Act, a federal law requiring commercial ships doing business in U.S. coastal waters to be American-flagged.
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