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.

Read moreNew vessels and barges on their way to Alaska

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.

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

Council issues position on safe crude oil tanker transit and escort vessel operation in the Sound

The Seward spill response fleet trains for spill response.

The Council voted unanimously on January 18, 2018, to pass 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.

The resolution was prompted by the upcoming change in marine service contract providers by Alyeska Pipeline Service Company’s Ship Escort/Response Vessel System, including crude oil tanker escort vessel services, effective July 2018. Council executive director Donna Schantz stated, “The oil tanker escort system in Prince William Sound is an essential oil spill prevention measure that is vital to reducing the risk of another catastrophic event, such as the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill.”

“If it is unsafe to train personnel, it is unsafe to transport oil,” said Council Board president Amanda Bauer. “This position does not just apply to the incoming contractor, but sets the standard to which the council feels all future new contractors, equipment and crews should be held. We believe strongly that these standards are needed to ensure the economic and environmental safety of the communities and groups we represent.”

Read moreCouncil issues position on safe crude oil tanker transit and escort vessel operation in the Sound

Council representatives visit Louisiana shipyards

Visitors come away impressed with new construction and Edison Chouest Offshore personnel

New information shared with the Council along with tours of Edison Chouest facilities has begun to alleviate some concerns related to the change of marine services contractors in Prince William Sound, some concerns remain.

During the May visit, the Council observed the massive tugs under construction in the shipyard. Left to right: Mike Day of Alyeska, Board member Patience Andersen Faulkner, staff member Roy Robertson, committee volunteer Jim Herbert, and Brett Lirette of Edison Chouest Offshore. Photo by Kate Dugan.

Tours of facilities

Council representatives visited Louisiana in May, June, and October to tour Edison Chouest’s shipyards, headquarters, and training facilities, where the company is building the new escort tugs and response vessels that will make up the Prince William Sound oil spill prevention and response system starting next year.

The visitors were given unfettered access to Edison Chouest’s staff and the opportunity to ask questions about their operations. Those present were impressed with the facilities and the company culture focusing on safety and cultivating competent staff. The quality of workmanship and use of new technologies were also on display.

Read moreCouncil representatives visit Louisiana shipyards