Boothville, Louisiana, July 2010. In 1968, gadfly Andy Warhol said "In the future, everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes." Since then, the quotation has been bastardized and misquoted. Nonetheless, the message was clear for "Super Oil Skimmer 'A Whale,'" "Your fifteen minutes have expired."
On July 1st, at the height of the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, a "Super Oil Skimmer" entered the Gulf with extensive curiosity and whoop-de-do by the press and public! Nobu Su, an entrepreneurial Taiwanese executive, who owns a fleet of Very Large Oil/Ore Carriers, had modified his newest tanker to skim Louisiana Light Sweet Crude, gushing from the wreck of the "Deepwater Horizon."
I detailed these auspicious beginnings in "A Whale Demystified."
"A Whale," like her sisters "B Whale" and "C Whale," (with "D Whale" and "E Whale" under construction at Hyundai Heavy Industries in South Korea,) were designed as Very Large Oil/Ore Bulk Carriers (VLOO).
Being too wide to transit the Panama or Suez Canals, these massive 1,150-foot long "Capeships" ply the oil and iron ore trade between South America, North America, Europe, and the Far East.
Furthermore, they are specially designed to carry crude oil or bulk commodities such as cement, grains or iron ore. This capability - to carry liquid or solid cargo - eliminates wasteful, non-revenue generating "dead head" trips across the Atlantic.
VLOO's (Very Large Oil/Ore carriers) are identified by deck-mounted cranes, used to open and close hatch covers. Red arrow points to crew man, giving scale to the size of this vessel! Hatch covers that must open from right to left, yellow arrows, as we will learn more about. The girder-like crane handles hoses for loading oil cargo through the manifold at right.
"A Whale" ended up discarded by the press and public following three weeks of disappointing skimming demonstrations on the Gulf of Mexico. She spent several weeks brooding at her Boothville Mississippi River anchorage. Finally, at the end of July, "A Whale" quietly heaved anchor and silently exited the Gulf of Mexico, bound for Sao Luis, Brazil.
"B Whale." Also newly delivered, "B Whale" was in Singapore bunkering. She received orders sending her to Portugal in late June, to become the second "Super Oil Skimmer." As she was arriving at the same yard where "A Whale" was modified, it was becoming clear that her sister was not effective as a "Super Oil Skimmer." "B Whale's" surgery was canceled and she was dispatched to Sao Luis, Brazil.
"C Whale." While her sister "A Whale" was floundering in the Gulf, and "B Whale" was enroute to Brazil, "C Whale," launched in June from Hyundai Heavy Industries in South Korea, was sent on her maiden voyage to Singapore. Plans were also dropped for her hull modifications. Following several weeks bunkering and taking on supplies, she too was sent to Sao Luis, Brazil.
GPS vessel tracking reported this unique snap shot of the relative position of each "Whale" on Sunday August 22nd.
So all the "Whales" have been accounted for. Moreover, all three "Whales" have been sent to Sao Luis, Brazil.
That is all very interesting, but how, in blue blazes, you are asking, does any of this connect with railroading?
Iron ore binds the three "Whales" together with railroading. Iron ore, to be loaded at Ponta da Madeira (PDM) located on the northeastern coast of Brazil at Sao Luis.
"A Whale of a Tail"
"A Whale Beached"
"A Whale Demystified"
"A Whale Super Skimmer or"