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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Amendment to industry’s plan for preventing and responding to oil spills approved

Council concerned that hard-fought protections would be delayed

In October, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, or ADEC, approved an amendment to Alyeska’s contingency plan for oil spills from the Valdez Marine Terminal.

New oil skimming systems

One of the major changes incorporates new oleophilic oil skimmers, which will also be on the soon-to-arrive Edison Chouest barges, into the plan. These skimmers, along with the Current Buster booming system, make up a more advanced oil recovery system. The new system allows responders to operate and collect oil for longer periods, as less water is collected requiring less storage. Continue reading

Steve Lewis: How a grizzly bear hide resulted in safer tanker traffic in Alaska

Volunteer profile

Steve Lewis

Steve Lewis hails from a large family of farmers and ranchers who settled in Colorado and Nebraska in the late 1800s. When he was little, his father was in the U.S. Navy and often at sea, so Lewis spent a lot of time at his Uncle Chester’s house. “It was a typical high-plains two story farmhouse,” Lewis recalls. Uncle Chester loved hunting and fishing, and Lewis has vivid memories of his uncle’s trophies from a trip to Alaska. Along the stairwell, a Kodiak brown bear pelt reached from bottom of the first floor almost to the ceiling of the second floor. Little Lewis had to run past that bear to get to his bedroom, where a moose head hung. “I KNEW that the other half of that moose was on the other side of that wall, and he was going to come through and get me.” “So that was my introduction to Alaska.”

North to Alaska

Fortunately for the Council, that imaginative kid never lost his fascination with the state. Continue reading