A recent council study found that the escort tugs being used in Prince William Sound, though exceedingly capable, no longer represent the best technology being used for these types of applications and services worldwide.
Loaded oil tankers transiting the waters of Prince William Sound are required by federal law and their oil spill contingency plans to be accompanied by two escort tugboats. Currently, escort tugs can serve in a primary or secondary role, depending on performance requirements established in the tanker contingency plans. The goal of the escort tug system is to prevent an oil tanker that suffers a mechanical or propulsion issue from running aground.
The 2013 Marine Firefighting Symposium was held October 8-10 in Seward. Through partnerships with the Seward Fire Department and AVTEC – Alaska’s Institute of Technology, this year the symposium included live fire training for the first time.
Participants came from all parts of Alaska. The 39 participants and eight facilitators represented a mix of communities and industry. Attendance numbers were lower than previous symposiums due to several factors, including the federal government shutdown.
On October 27, Board President Amanda Bauer, Executive Director Mark Swanson, Director of Programs Donna Schantz and Project Manager Alan Sorum were given the opportunity to tour the tanker Overseas Martinez at the Valdez Marine Terminal. Arrangements for the visit were made by Marine Superintendent Patrick Callahan of Overseas Shipping Group, commonly known as OSG, who traveled from Tampa, Florida to Nikiski and rode the tanker over to Valdez to conduct the tour. Mr. Callahan provided the group with a unique opportunity to become better acquainted with the OSG fleet.
The Overseas Martinez is a 600 foot long tanker operated for Tesoro by OSG. Built in 2010, the tanker can carry 338,447 barrels of cargo. It calls at Valdez, Nikiski and ports along the West Coast. This tanker was built at the Aker Shipyard in Philadelphia as a crude oil and clean product tanker. The vessel received extensive retrofits to provide extra insulation and heating for the rigors of Alaska service.
A number of interesting things were noted about the Overseas Martinez. The vessel is powered by a large, two-cycle diesel engine. Two-cycle engines produce power at every revolution of the crankshaft. This ship uses direct drive to turn its propeller shaft and prop. The engine needs to be physically stopped and restarted in the opposite direction to reverse course. This means advanced planning becomes important during maneuvering.
Interestingly, all the rainwater that collects on the deck of the Overseas Martinez is collected and treated and prior to being discarded to prevent potential sheens. During loading operations, the vessel employs a hull stress calculator to ensure its 46,000 tons of cargo is loaded in a sequence that does not damage the tanker. Because of its concerns with potentially illegal overboard discharges, the vessel is equipped with a sentinel system that reports any discharge of water or other substance through the hull to the water to OSG’s management team in Tampa, Florida.
This is the first visit the council has had on a tanker moored at the Valdez Marine Terminal in a long time. In the recent past, Polar Tankers has graciously allowed firefighter tours during the Marine Firefighting Symposium at the Valdez Container Terminal. We thank Captain George Kugler and Chief Engineer Mr. Paul Russell for the informative tour and hospitality. The visit would not have been possible without the help of Marine Superintendent Patrick Callahan.
The Council’s Port Operations and Vessel Traffic Systems (POVTS) committee members have been aware of severe historical wind events that have caused the terminal’s operators to halt transfer of oil to a tanker because the required containment boom around the tanker could not be maintained. This boom is required in order to contain any oil that might be spilled during transfer of cargo. High winds and the resulting waves can adversely affect a boom.
Booms placed around tankers as they are being loaded presents a first line of defense in preventing the spread of oil in an inadvertent spill. Heavy weather limits the effectiveness of booms and impacts loading operations. Developing better information concerning the relationship between weather and loading, with a focus on potential mitigation measures can only help to improve safety during loading operations.
The report titled “Wave induced Delays in Cargo Transfer at the Valdez Marine Terminal – Berth 4” by Marie Kartezhnikova, Orson Smith and Peter Olsson is a preliminary investigation for the council of wave-related difficulties in boom deployment and effectiveness at Berth 4 of the VMT.
The report was, in part, an academic exercise. Kartezhnikova was a graduate student enrolled in the University of Alaska Anchorage, studying the design of ports and harbors. Smith is the instructor of that course and a member of the council’s POVTS committee. Olsson is the Alaska State Climatologist at the UAA’s Environment and Natural Resources Institute. Olsson provided expert opinion on wind climate and origins of extreme wind events at the site. None of the authors were compensated for this work. Council financial support was limited to travel expenses for a site visit in October 2012.
Kartezhnikova presented the findings in this report at the council’s Science Night event on December 13, 2012.