Technology: Mopping Up Oily Oceans

In March, the grounded tanker Torrey Canyon spewed some 90,000 tons of crude oil into the coastal waters off southwestern Britain. Though only part of the oil reached the beaches, the accident cost Britain $7,000,000 in cleanup charges, polluted the sea from Cornwall to Brittany and dealt heavy damage to marine life in the area. And there are other vessels afloat that could make an even bigger mess.

Already 200,000-ton tankers ply the seas; 300,000-ton vessels are on order, and the advent of 500,000-ton jumbo tankers is fast approaching. Even under normal...

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