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.

Employee training

Council staffer Jeremy Robida observed a “train-the-trainer” session in July. Alyeska trained Edison Chouest personnel on the prevention and response duties for which their employees will be responsible. Attendees were all directly involved in the transition, with future duties such as management of operations, crewing or captaining a vessel, or teaching this material to new hires bound for Alaska.

The event was a mix of classroom discussions and hands-on field time with equipment such as oil skimmers.
“Edison Chouest employees seemed to take pride in the company and their work,” said Robida. “There was excitement about Alaska and the Alyeska/SERVS contract. This excitement was satisfying to see, and hopefully that same spirit of interest will continue through the lifespan of this contract.”

New technology on the vessels

Improvements in the new tugs will include forward-looking infrared and digital radar signal processing systems to improve the detection of icebergs as an oil spill prevention measure, as well as to enhance the ability to detect spilled oil on water should prevention measures fail.

Council volunteer Jim Herbert stands next to large winches waiting to be installed on a tug headed for Alaska.
Council volunteer Jim Herbert stands next to large winches waiting to be installed on a tug headed for Alaska.

The escort tugs will be equipped with “render-recover” winches. A render-recover winch is designed to monitor and automatically adjust line tension. This reduces potential operator mistakes and improves safety.The Council is also pleased that Samson Rope Technologies, Inc. will be the provider for their towlines.

Remaining concerns

The visits and new information have helped ease some concerns, however some questions still remain.
The Council is developing specific recommendations to ensure the equipment can safely operate in Alaska waters and the crews are trained and qualified. A team of experts with extensive experience in the prevention and response industry in Prince William Sound, a former government regulator, and a world-renowned naval architect are assisting the Council in the research.

The experts are looking at a range of tools, including on-water field demonstrations in varying weather conditions, computer simulations and modeling, drills, and exercises, and scale model-tank tests which could be used to give the Council confidence that the new vessels and personnel can handle the work in the environmental conditions of Prince William Sound.

Edison Chouest is planning to conduct sea trials for the tugs in the Gulf of Mexico before equipment is moved to Alaska. As the vessels arrive in Prince William Sound, starting in early 2018, on-water demonstrations and oil spill training exercises will begin in Prince William Sound. Council representatives plan to attend these events.

Previous updates on the transition:


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