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July 8, 2010

A Whale gets go ahead for further tests

The A Whale, the 319,869 dwt ore/oil carrier converted into a giant skimmer, is to undergo another week of testing. It will be making use of additional equipment fabricated by Buck Kreihs Marine Repair LLC, New Orleans.

"We are pleased to report that the US Coast Guard has just approved the request of TMT Offshore Group to continue to collect oil and to make modifications designed to improve the effectiveness of the vessel," Bob Grantham, spokesman for TMT Offshore, said today.

"We will remain in the MC252 area, our current location, for the purposes of conducting one additional week of intensive testing in close coordination with the US Coast Guard and other elements of the Unified Area Command," he continued. "After we report our findings, the Coast Guard will conduct an independent assessment."

The news that A Whale is to undergo further evaluation comes after National Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen said in a briefing yesterday that the initial tests of the giant ship had been "inconclusive."

Mr. Grantham noted today that, since the A Whale arrived in the Gulf last week, "we have faced difficulties in performing a good test of her capabilities. The ship encountered rough seas for effective skimming, being deployed for testing at the very time almost all other skimmers had to head to port. We faced engineering challenges that needed to be addressed."

"We have already made mechanical and operational changes designed to adapt to the conditions we found in the Gulf, he said. "We designed, fabricated and installed an innovative new system of conduits to direct oily water from the vessel's intake jaws to its tanks. This system was fabricated by one of the most experienced regional marine repair hands, the Buck Kreihs shop from right here in New Orleans. In short, one of the most sophisticated cargo ships built by Hyundai in South Korea was adapted to the oily waters of the Gulf by Louisiana ingenuity."

"While the new conduits worked to greatly increase the intake of oily water into the A Whale, the officers and crew of the A Whale also developed new tactics to improve effective skimming in rough seas. Utilizing her great size and maneuverability, A Whale was able to create substantial lee areas downwind of the vessel. These navigational windbreaks allowed relative calm on the leeward side of the vessel to collect more oily water."

"We are releasing some video today from testing over the last two days that shows A Whale taking in large quantities of oily water, thus demonstrating there is great promise in our approach," said Mr. Grantham.

"Even with these innovations now complete, there is more work to be done," he continued. "TMT is dedicated to making improvements in the A Whale so that it can be a frontline asset in fighting oil spills."

Mr. Nobu Su, the owner and chief executive officer of TMT said: "If anything has been learned from the Macondo incident, it is that rapid deployment of large, maneuverable skimming capacity can provide an effective and organic oil spill mitigation solution in the immediate aftermath of an offshore spill. We appreciate the offer of the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy to work closely with their experts on developing what we believe will be the state-of-the-art in rapid oil spill containment. Working with our allies in the Coast Guard, Navy, and elsewhere, we intend to do our level best to ensure that that capacity will be available now and in the future."


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