Conference focuses on best practices in towing rope technology

By Alan Sorum
Council project manager

A recent conference on rope design hosted by Samson Rope, a leading producer of high performance towing rope, shared best practices for towing that may be applicable in Prince William Sound.

Founded in Boston in 1878, Samson is the world’s largest producer of ropes made with “Dyneema,” an ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene fiber. The company manufactures ropes of traditional fibers, like nylon and polyester.
Samson provided the emergency towing equipment for the last two foreign-flagged tankers that called on the Valdez Marine Terminal. The International Maritime Organization, a United Nations agency tasked with improving maritime safety and preventing pollution from ships, requires tankers to carry an emergency towing package on their stern. In addition to this equipment, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation requires what is known as the “Prince William Sound Tow Package” to be carried on the bow of every tanker. This towing package consists of a messenger line, towline, buoy, and heavy-duty shackle that can be quickly deployed in an emergency.

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Louisiana’s Edison Chouest Offshore to take over from Crowley in 2018 as Alyeska’s maritime contractor

Council invited to observe trainings, ship construction, on-water exercises

Edison Chouest plans to purchase several barges currently in use in Prince William Sound, including the 500-2. The 500-2 is a support barge for spill recovery operations near shore.

In June, Alyeska Pipeline officially confirmed that Edison Chouest Offshore will take over from Crowley Maritime as the provider of oil spill prevention and response services for the terminal and tankers in Prince William Sound. The overlap of Crowley and Edison Chouest’s marine assets in Prince William Sound will take place over a three to six week period in the summer of 2018.

The contract, signed in early August, is effective until 2028.

Edison Chouest is planning five new escort tugs, four new general purpose tugs, three new barges, and two line boats. Construction of the general purpose tugs began this summer. Edison Chouest is planning to purchase two barges currently in Prince William Sound and build three new barges.

Edison Chouest owns shipyards in the Gulf of Mexico, and the majority of the testing will be done nearby. Further testing will be done in Puget Sound and later in Prince William Sound once the vessels arrive in the region.
Alyeska has promised further details about the vessels such as escorting performance specifications, firefighting capabilities, and spill response equipment in the near future.

Observing the process

The council is attending meetings along with ADEC, the Coast Guard, and Crowley for updates and information from Alyeska and Edison Chouest. Roy Robertson, the council’s drill monitor, has been attending on behalf of the council.
“They have offered us the opportunity to observe vessel construction, crew trainings, and on-water exercises,” said Robertson. “We are setting aside funds for these trips to the shipyards and training facilities in the Gulf of Mexico.”

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Foreign tankers arrive in Prince William Sound

Council observing process

The 900-foot long Tianlong Spirit was built in 2009 and is registered in the Bahamas. Photo by Doug Craig.

Two foreign-flagged tankers hauled Alaska North Slope crude oil from the Valdez terminal this summer for the first time in over 30 years. The last time non-U.S. vessels shipped Alaska crude to foreign refineries was in the 1980s when West Coast refineries could not keep up with the amount of crude coming out of the pipeline.

The first tanker, the Tianlong Spirit, visited the terminal late last July and the second, the Cascade Spirit, arrived in early August. Both are chartered by BP, and owned by Teekay Corporation.

A ban on selling U.S. oil was put in place during the 1970s Arab oil embargo in an effort to keep Alaskan oil in the U.S. At the time, the U.S. was in the middle of an energy crisis and gasoline prices were soaring. Alaska oil was exempted from the ban in 1995 under President Clinton, although the oil still had to be transported by U.S.-flagged tankers. Congress lifted the export ban for the rest of the U.S. in late 2015, which the Alaska delegation sought for the past 20 years. This change also allowed foreign tankers to transport oil out of the U.S.

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From the President and Executive Director: Partnerships build trust and help prevent oil spills

By Amanda Bauer, President of the Council’s Board of Directors and Donna Schantz, Executive Director.

Amanda Bauer
Donna Schantz

In 1990, just after the worst oil spill the U.S. had ever seen, Congress was tasked with creating legislation that would prevent such a disaster from happening again. One goal of the resulting legislation, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, was to foster long-term partnership and build trust between industry, government, and local communities. To help accomplish this, the Act mandated regional citizens’ advisory councils to help monitor the oil industry in Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet.

Great visionaries began this experiment in building partnership and trust. While some of these people are no longer with us, we still share the vision that motivated them.

Today, the council still works to find common ground between citizens, the oil industry, and regulators in order to develop the trust necessary to build and maintain the safest marine transportation system in the world.

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