UPDATE: From MarineLog A Whale continues skimming operations
If you cut the blades off a lawn mower and fastened them underneath a tractor trailer truck would the result be a very large lawn mower? Or would the result be a tractor trailer truck, with lawnmower blades affixed underneath, good for neither hauling freight nor mowing lawns?
The lawn mower analogy comes from the ship owners themselves, CEO Nobu Su told reporters that A whale was “like a lawnmower cutting the grass,” and that is would be: "effectively doubling the skimming capability of the oil response effort,"
Skimming oil from the surface of the sea under the influnce of the wind and current is not like mowing the lawn and the A Whale is more tanker then skimmer, a tanker with slots cut in the hull.
The best reporting I've seen on the A Whale is here: Oil-eating Whale or ‘white elephant’? This is the only report I have seen where someone with some maritime expertise was consulted, namely Dennis Bryant, known here via the site Bryant's Maritime Blog
We should hear some reports on the A Whale soon, it is currently being tested in the Gulf. I haven't seen the math on the speed of the ship, the width of the swath being picked up, percentages of oil recovered and so forth, I don't think reporters are doing a very good job of covering this story.