Today is Day 75 of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Docked now in the Mississippi River, the world’s largest oil skimmer, the “A Whale”, is beginning to undergo EPA testing before it is permitted to assist in the BP oil spill. Under EPA guidelines, any water discharged back into the sea must only contain 15 parts per million of oil. If the “A Whale” does not pass this requirement, the owners may still apply for a waiver.

The oil skimmer “A Whale” is a converted cargo container vessel. It’s hull is 1,000 feet in length and the ship is nearly ten stories tall. She can process 500,000 barrels of oily water per day, nearly equal in capability to the entire 550 ship fleet of oil skimmers currently deployed in the Gulf! The ship was recently in Norfolk, Virginia, awaiting permission to sail to the oil spill scene.

The Jones Act of 1920 was one of the issues preventing the “A Whale” from participating sooner. The Act only allows American flagged ships with American crews to conduct commercial operations from one U.S. port to another U.S. port. Once the ship passes the EPA test, or gets a waiver from it as well, the Taiwanese flagged “A Whale” must also get an exemption from the Jones Act.

TMT, the company which owns the “A Whale”, ordered the vessel to Portugal the very day of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and fire. Engineers from Hyundai developed the plan to convert the cargo ship into an oil skimmer by the time it arrived at the shipyard in Portugal. Should the “A Whale” pass it’s tests and proves effective in helping to clean up the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, TMT will convert two more ships into oil skimmers, the “B Whale” and “C Whale”.