On September 26, I visited with our team in Valdez, where almost 300 individuals stepped up to respond to a terminal spill that occurred near Berth 5 on September 21. Responders included Alyeska’s Ship Escort/Response Vessel System (SERVS) staff, other Alyeska and contractor personnel, vessels and crews from the Vessel of Opportunity program, U.S. Coast Guard and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation agency personnel, and representatives from the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council.
That such a spill occurred on our watch into the waters of Port Valdez was a punch in the gut to me personally, to our entire organization, and especially to those at the Terminal and SERVS, who I know, along with our stakeholders, work diligently every day to prevent harm to these special waters. The spill was a serious and unacceptable event. The cause is under investigation and we will quickly and aggressively make whatever changes are needed to prevent a repeat of this occurrence. The status quo that could allow such an event should be intolerable to every one of us.
But I want to express my thanks and deep appreciation for what I sensed over recent days, and saw firsthand in September — a strong team pulling itself up off the ground and aggressively applying our training, lessons from many drills, personal and team skills, and grit to minimize impacts, remove oil from our waters, and restore loading operations. There was rigorous emphasis on source control, containment and recovery. There was close cooperation with our regulators and stakeholders, there was transparent, honest and timely communication in a rapidly changing and sometimes uncertain situation, and response agility in the face of complex system aspects and rocky near-shore geography that imposed a very high degree of difficulty on response actions.
The commitment and hard work paid off: there was no harm to wildlife, and on September 25, we began loading tankers after the Coast Guard and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation concurred cleanup efforts were satisfactory (although some shoreline work and equipment decontamination and reset activities continued).
While many people worked long hours at the command post, I want to give special credit to those in the field. Typical of Valdez, the weather was harsh, cold, and very wet, with near-constant rains. But people kept at it, worked very hard, and for their persistence, we can all be grateful.
More details on the spill here: North Slope crude oil spills into Port Valdez