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Crews Test Giant Oil Skimmer in Gulf of Mexico

Oil cleanup efforts in the Gulf of Mexico soon could get a boost, if tests of a new skimming vessel go well.

Crews began testing the massive Taiwanese tanker, dubbed A Whale, on Friday and continued those operations on Saturday. The ship, about 275 meters long, takes in oil-laden sea water through vents, separating the oil and then pumping the cleaned water back into the Gulf.

Its makers say it can process up to 80 million liters of oily water a day.

A smaller group of oil skimmers also was hard at work Saturday, after halting operations for several days because of rough conditions created by then-Hurricane Alex.

Alex also delayed the hookup of a third containment vessel that is set to double the amount of oil being collected to up to 53,000 barrels a day. The vessel is now expected to be in place next week.

Separately, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson visited Pensacola, Florida Saturday to inspect the ongoing response to the oil spill. Jackson was there to oversee beach cleanup operations.

The oil crisis followed an explosion on a rig leased by oil company BP. The April 20 blast killed 11 workers.

Government estimates say the broken well is gushing up to 60,000 barrels of oil into the Gulf each day.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.