New vessels and barges on their way to Alaska

Major equipment upgrades include state-of-the-art tugs, skimmers, oil-spotting technology, oil response barges

The Commander, pictured here at the shipyard, arrived in early March.

The first new Edison Chouest Offshore, or ECO, tugs to arrive in Prince William Sound are expected to be the Elrington, one of the new general purpose tugs, and the Commander, one of the new tanker escort tugs. They both launched last fall and are traveling north from the Gulf of Mexico, expected to arrive in early March. They will pick up a new, purpose-built oil spill response barge on their way past Portland, Oregon.

Update: The first tugs have arrived!

ECO is bringing a total of five new escort tugs, four new general purpose tugs, one utility and anchor handling tug, and four response barges to Alaska. As vessels and barges arrive in Prince William Sound, hands-on training and demonstrations with this equipment will start.

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Safe oil transportation: Are we really so far apart?

Musings from a retired tug engineer

Robert Archibald

Robert Archibald

If you’ve ever owned horses, you probably know that cleaning the barn first thing in the morning is good for the soul. I use that time to think. Recently, before going out to take care of my four-legged friends, I started pondering the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council’s recent resolution, the response from industry, and had a good shovel session to sift through it all.

For those who may not be aware, in January the council passed a resolution stating that oil tankers and escort vessels should not be permitted to transit through Prince William Sound and into the Gulf of Alaska in weather conditions which have been determined by industry to be unsafe for training.

Some have focused on the differing viewpoints between the council and industry. In truth, we are more in alignment than not. We both want the highest level of safety within the oil spill prevention and response system for Prince William Sound. We agree that crew safety is the first priority. Alyeska Pipeline Service Company has also committed to training new crews to demonstrate tanker escorts in a variety of weather and sea conditions in the Sound.

Our resolution is a request for industry to determine their safe limits of training, clearly define them, and then evaluate the need to limit laden tanker transits through Prince William Sound and into the Gulf of Alaska to those same weather conditions.

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Resolution welcoming Edison Chouest Offshore and its employees into service in Prince William Sound

Resolution 18-04 – Passed May 3, 2018

The Elrington, one of Edison Chouest’s new tugs, and a new oil spill response barge

WHEREAS, by July of 2018 Edison Chouest Offshore will be the marine services contractor to Alyeska Pipeline Service Company’s ship escort/response vessel system for oil tankers and the terminal in Prince William Sound; and,

WHEREAS, Alyeska Pipeline Service Company and Edison Chouest Offshore have been working with Crowley Maritime, the contractor who currently provides those services, on a smooth transition between the two contractors; and,

WHEREAS, the Council’s understanding and expectation is that the new services will meet or exceed the current system; and,

WHEREAS, Edison Chouest Offshore has brought to Alaska new vessels purpose built for Prince William Sound and the Gulf of Alaska; and,

WHEREAS, this transition includes many vessels and equipment improvements, such as render/recover winches, forward-looking infrared and digital radar signal processing systems, and barge designs that allow for faster and safer deployment of response equipment; and,

WHEREAS, Council staff and volunteers have had the opportunity to visit Edison Chouest Offshore shipyards and other facilities in the Gulf of Mexico in 2017 and found the company culture focused on safety and cultivating competent staff, as well as impressive and high quality workmanship in the vessels under construction; and, Continue reading

Resolution recognizing and expressing appreciation for the contributions of Crowley Maritime Corporation and its employees within Alaska communities

Resolution 18-03 – Passed May 3, 2018

The Alert, one of Crowley's  prevention and response tugs.

The Alert, one of Crowley’s prevention and response tugs.

WHEREAS, Crowley Maritime Corporation (aka Crowley Marine Services, Crowley Marine Solutions, Crowley Alaska) has been a valued partner to the people and businesses of Alaska since 1953 and was a major provider of marine services during the construction of the Trans Alaska Pipeline System and Valdez Marine Terminal; and,

WHEREAS, Crowley Maritime tugs were first on the scene to the Exxon Valdez oil spill and supported spill cleanup afterwards with a variety of vessels and services; and,

WHEREAS, Crowley Maritime has been actively engaged in ensuring the safe transit of crude oil tankers through Prince William Sound to the Gulf of Alaska, since the advent of the current ship escort system established 17 years ago; and,

WHEREAS, Crowley Maritime and its crews have demonstrated significant skill and talent in their ability to operate tugboats in extreme conditions, such as those seen in the Gulf of Alaska; and,

WHEREAS, Crowley Maritime has acted to render immediate assistance to tankers in distress in adverse conditions and prevented potential accidents in the Sound; and,

WHEREAS, Crowley Maritime ’s professionalism and expertise are recognized statewide, such as assisting vessels in distress outside of Prince William Sound, including in perilous conditions; and,

WHEREAS, Crowley Maritime made significant contributions to reducing the risk of crude oil spills in Alaska waters with the design, testing, and operation of the five then-state-of-the art tugs brought into service in Prince William Sound in 1999 to 2000; and, Continue reading

Resolution commending and expressing gratitude for Al Burch’s dedication and service in Alaska

Resolution 18-02 – Passed May 3, 2018

Al Burch

WHEREAS; Al Burch started out as a shrimp dragger in Seward, moved to Kodiak shortly after the 1964 earthquake, and has fished Alaskan waters for more than 55 years; and,

WHEREAS, in addition to serving as a member of the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council Board, Al Burch has served on numerous national and international fishing boards including being a founding member of the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation and serving 30 years on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s Advisory Panel; and,

WHEREAS, Al Burch served as Executive Director of the Alaska Whitefish Trawlers Association, a non-profit group representing approximately 40 bottom-fish vessels out of Kodiak, since its inception in 1974 and until his retirement from the association in 2008, and remains a Member Emeritus on their Board of Directors; and,

WHEREAS, Al Burch was inducted into the United Fishermen of Alaska’s Seafood Hall of Fame in 2009, for his dedication to Alaska’s fisheries and ocean resources; and,

WHEREAS, Al Burch was recognized as the recipient of the prestigious Walter J. and Ermalee Hickel Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015, for his exceptional contributions to the management of Alaska’s coastal and ocean resources over a period of 20 years or more; and,

WHEREAS, Al Burch has represented the Kodiak Island Borough on the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council since September 2002; and,

WHEREAS, Al Burch served as a member of the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council’s legislative affairs committee for over 14 years, providing support and credibility as our “crusty old fisherman,” never giving up on an opportunity to politic; and, Continue reading

Council meeting held in Valdez

The Council’s board of directors will meet in Valdez on Thursday and Friday, May 3 and 4, 2018. Meeting location: Valdez Civic Center

The tentative schedule for the Thursday session is set to run from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. On Friday, the meeting is scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The meeting is open to the public, except for executive sessions. Public comments are scheduled to be taken Thursday starting at 9:00 a.m.

The Council will be conducting regular business during the meeting, including seating of established directors and committee members, election of new board officers, recognition of volunteers, and adoption of the council budget for the next fiscal year beginning July 1, 2018. Continue reading