Gulf Oil Spill Day 76: A Whale Awaits EPA And Jones Waiver

Dian L. Chu
updated | Author's Website

The world’s largest oil skimmer vessel arrived in the Gulf and has docked in Louisiana since June 30 awaiting U.S. official review and approval.

The Taiwanese-flagged vessel was originally commissioned as a conventional oil tanker earlier this year in South Korea. But the ship’s owner, Taiwan shipping giant –TMT (“Today Makes Tomorrow”) Shipping Offshore—modified it into an oil skimmer immediately after the BP Deepwater Horizon rig explosion.

A Whale’s Big Gamble

TMT is making a pretty big gamble as the giant A Whale has not gotten a contract from BP or the U.S. government.

According to the Associated Press (video below), the massive vessel—called “A Whale”– is 3 1/2 football fields long and 10-story high. It’s outfitted with 12 vents on either side of its bow.

Once deployed, the ship could vacuum about 21 million gallons of oil fouled water per day. The oil would then be moved to another tanker for disposal, and the water would be pumped back into the Gulf.

Awaiting EPA & Jones Waiver

That technology; however, has never been used or even tested, and requires the sign-off from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Furthermore, the vessel could have another hurdle. It may need a waiver of the Jones Act, which prohibits foreign-flagged vessel and non-U.S. crew working in the U.S. Gulf, as reported by a news clip from ABC 13 News.

As of this writing, the behemoth A Whale is not yet ready to attack the Gulf of Mexico oil spill after a weekend of testing proved inconclusive, mostly due to the rough sea state caused by Hurricane Alex, according to Nola, quoting a statement from TMT on Monday, July 5, 2010.

Testing is said to resume as soon as the water is calmer. But the National Weather Service indicated that the current spate of bad weather is likely to last for the next few days

Locals Remain Frustrated

Meanwhile, many local officials were anxious to get most of the smaller oil skimmers, halted last week by Alex, back on track and were frustrated that the “A Whale” can’t start working on the cleanup immediately.

And understandably, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said it was exasperating to have “A Whale” anchored offshore instead of being put to immediate use.

BP Relief Wells On Track

So, it seems A Whale may need a while to finally skim at the U.S. Gulf.  But fortunately, weather has not affected the two relief wells by BP meant to finally plug the oil gusher. BP said early to mid-August is still the timeframe for the completion of the drilling.

You may also like: