NEW ORLEANS, La. - After an extended trial period during which the supertanker skimming vessel “A Whale” was given an opportunity to demonstrate its capability to remove oil in open seas of the Gulf of Mexico, Federal On-Scene Coordinator Admiral Paul Zukunft today announced that it will not be deployed as a part of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill response.
“A Whale,” the 1,115 foot long supertanker that sailed to the United States from Lisbon, Portugal, was modified in an innovative way, and went through an extensive operational review by a multiagency team under the supervision of the U.S. Coast Guard. The report concluded that after significant effort, the amount of oil recovered was negligible, and limited oil beyond a sheen was found in the cargo tanks. Over the same 24 hour testing period, the Unified Area Command mobilized more than 590 smaller, more agile skimmers to remove more than 25,551 barrels of oil water, conducted 26 controlled burns, and recovered 12,800 barrels at the source to continue to fight the oil as far offshore as possible.
“While its stature is impressive, ‘A Whale’ is not ideally suited to the needs of this response,” said Admiral Zukunft. “We appreciate the ingenuity of the TNT team to try to make this innovative system work under these unique conditions. This is the largest oil spill response in our nation’s history and we will continue to attack the oil as far offshore as possible with our fleet of hundreds of skimmers, controlled burns, and effective use of dispersant.”
Because the oil consists of relatively smaller patches and numerous ribbons spread very thinly across a great distance, the mission has required the deployment of smaller skimmers with the agility needed to maneuver and pursue oil in both crowded and open waters.
Since early June, at the direction of National Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen, the number of skimmers fighting oil in the Gulf has been increased more than fivefold to 593 as of today. There are currently more than total 6,800 vessels responding on site, including skimmers, tugs, barges, and recovery vessels to assist in containment and cleanup efforts—in addition to dozens of aircraft, remotely operated vehicles, and multiple mobile offshore drilling units. Nearly 33 million gallons of an oil-water mix have been recovered and 387 controlled burns have been conducted, efficiently removing an additional 11 million gallons of oil from the open water in an effort to protect shoreline and wildlife.