Prince William Sound was a hive of activity this summer. On July 1, Alyeska’s marine services contractor transitioned from Crowley Maritime Corporation to Edison Chouest Offshore.
This transition means all of the escort tugs and much of the spill prevention and response equipment in Prince William Sound are brand new, or new to the Sound.
Demonstrations of the new equipment
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation required that each vessel and crew member demonstrate their capabilities before beginning service. Each tug, as well as each tug’s captain, had to perform a set of maneuvers which differed according to the vessel and its purpose.
Beginning in March, Edison Chouest Offshore conducted their first demonstration in Alaska of their new tugs’ capabilities. The Alaska Tanker Company’s tanker, Alaskan Legend, simulated a series of tanker failures to allow the tug Commander to attempt to stop the tanker’s movement from different angles, at different speeds.
The Legend is one of the largest tankers operating in Prince William Sound and it was loaded to its maximum capacity, weighing 184,000 deadweight tons. The Commander successfully stopped the tanker in less time and distance than is required by the contingency plans. Each of the escort tugs had to perform a similar test with other tankers.
Edison Chouest Offshore started deploying the oil spill response barges in late March. The first exercises focused on training with the barge crews practicing steps needed to operate their vessel. As the crews received more training, they conducted full deployments of the barges and equipment, generally twice per week. This schedule allowed each tug and their crews to rotate through and gain experience towing an oil spill response barge.
Vessels were still arriving just a few days before the transition date. The last escort tug, the Challenger, arrived late in the evening of June 26, and was out on the water demonstrating the capabilities of the vessel and the crew the next morning.
All vessels were approved for service as of July 1. The system transition has been approved, although the department set conditions for the approval, which must be met by December 31, 2018. More on these conditions.
Board recognizes Crowley and welcomes Edison Chouest
At its May meeting, the Council’s Board of Directors passed two resolutions related to the transition.
Among other details, the resolution noted the history of Crowley’s service in Prince William Sound, their crews’ skills and talent and ability to operate in the rugged conditions of Prince William Sound and the Gulf of Alaska, as well as the many contributions to the community by Crowley and their employees.
The second resolution welcomed Edison Chouest Offshore and their employees into service in Prince William Sound.
The Board recognized Edison Chouest’s new vessels and improvements in the equipment, the company’s focus on safety and cultivating competent staff, and their statements of commitment to the protection of Prince William Sound.