Prince William Sound has some of the most environmentally sensitive coastal areas and shoreline habitats in Alaska. It contains many sensitive biological resources, marine mammals, national forests, state critical habitat areas, and state parks.
However, Prince William Sound also sees a wide variety of marine traffic such as oil tankers, commercial fishing boats, ferries, cruise ships, and freighters.
Leaking or disabled vessels may require a sheltered location with appropriate water depth to repair or lighter the vessel. Vessels should be anchored or moored in protected waters to safely undergo repairs and minimize polluting downstream environmental resources and shoreline.
There is no perfect anchoring site for all vessels and all situations. Decision-makers must address both environmental and operational issues when deciding where to take stricken vessels.
The objective of this project was to meet with primary stakeholders to discuss, pre-identify, and reach consensus on places of safe refuge for leaking or disabled vessels in Prince William Sound. It prepared invaluable information and guidance for decision-makers who might be faced with a crisis involving a disabled vessel.
More information specifically about Prince William Sound Places of Refuge is available off of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s Web site’s Places of Refuge page.
In the aftermath of the Prestige incident (an oil tanker whose sinking in 2002 off the Spanish coast caused a huge oil spill), there has been a push from many arenas for a comprehensive review of the current process of determining safe refuge for distressed ships. Currently, there are undertakings on this topic at the international, national, state, and local levels.
The Pacific States/British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force has a places of refuge project. Plans are also underway for this issue to be addressed in Cook Inlet and the Aleutian Chain.
The Alaska Regional Response Team (ARRT) formed a subcommittee on Places of Refuge. The purpose of the ARRT subcommittee is to develop consistent guidelines applicable to the entire state. Places of refuge for each sub area may be developed through the sub area committee process, or through another forum.
Primary Project Participants:
Alaska Dept of Environmental Conservation
US Coast Guard
SERVS (Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. / Ship Escort and Response Vessel Service)
PWS Response Planning Group
Southwest Pilots Association
Alaska Department of Natural Resources
Alaska Department of Fish and Game
Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
National Oceans and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
U.S. Department of the Interior
Feedback on this project in 2004
Additional information provided:
Letters of Concern from Jack Bay Homesteaders, John and Susanne Lyle: