In thinking about the antiquated technology we're presently using on the oil in the Gulf I think it's beyond time to rethink and redesign oil spill tech. With spills getting ever larger and the means based in tech that's 40+ years old the time is overdue. Here's just a few ideas that come to mind that would move us forward.
This is a frame press. It's used to separate water from wastes by forcing it through membranes or filters. This is actually a small version. They can be as big as the size of a small house and can process quite a bit of liquids with filters as big as 50 sq. ft. With BP using massive quantities of dispersants there now is no choice but to use different methods. We know that when oil is treated as BP did then the oil becomes heavier than water making the usual separation methods ineffective. All of Kevin Costner's good work gone down the drain. Had they attacked this problem like a military operation from the beginning there would have been less problems but that would be hindsight and there's no time for that now. At present we can only deal with all the mistakes made and learn to deal with it.
The 'A Whaler' was a good idea had it been readily available from the get go and dispersants not been used. But let's take some old technology twist it around a bit and see if we can't come up with better ideas. With some modifications I think the giant skimmer ship might be promising. I'd retrofit it with six large booms that could be extended out 40 or 50 feet off the port and starboard sides of the ship. At the end of each boom would be a floating collection box with a sweep and vacuum. A camera mounted at the end of each would help find the ribbons of oil. A couple of snorkels with camera could suck up a good bit of the undersea plumes.
I'm sure there are plenty of other good ideas out there just waiting to be perfected.