Firefighting symposium held in Seward; includes live fire training for first time

A firefighter practices on live fire in a controlled situation during the 2013 Marine Firefighting Symposium. Photo by Alan Sorum.
A firefighter practices on live fire in a controlled situation during the 2013 Marine Firefighting Symposium.

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.

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Council tours tanker Overseas Martinez at the Valdez Marine Terminal

Council Project Manager

Overseas Martinez moored at the terminal. Photo by Alan Sorum.
Overseas Martinez moored at the terminal.

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.

Council representatives learn about the tanker. Photo by Alan Sorum.
Council representatives learn about the tanker.

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.

Wave-induced delays in cargo transfer

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.

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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.

Study looks at changes in Columbia Glacier and effects on oil transportation

This year, the council is sponsoring a project to study Columbia Glacier, looking at its retreat and loss of ice. The council hopes to learn more about possible future effects of icebergs on tanker traffic in Prince William Sound.

Columbia Glacier has long been of interest to the council. The glacier has been in a state of rapid retreat since the early 1980s, the reduction in mass has been mostly in the form of calving icebergs. These icebergs sometimes drift with the current and the wind into the vessel traffic lanes used by oil tankers in Prince William Sound. In 1989, the Exxon Valdez grounded on Bligh Reef while avoiding ice in the tanker lanes.

In the late 1990s, the council helped fund the Columbia Glacier Iceberg Monitoring Project, pioneering research first conducted by Austin Post and Wendell Tangborn. That project studied the potential for calved ice to damage oil tankers.

This year, the council is sponsoring a continuation of the original project, conducted by two well-known glaciologists, Tad Pfeffer and Shad O’Neel. Pfeffer is regarded for his work in glacial retreat and for studying tidewater glaciers worldwide. O’Neel has been extensively involved with research conducted at Columbia Glacier.

As part of this project, Pfeffer and O’Neel recently began looking at available data for Columbia Glacier, summarizing the current knowledge concerning the retreat of Columbia Glacier, especially in the interval since the original iceberg project. The two researchers were given access to Columbia Glacier observations since the 1970s and data acquired by Post and Tangborn.

Pfeffer and O’Neel will then attempt to document the current rate of iceberg calving and drift trajectories. They intend to reevaluate the concept of calculating glacier retreat rates using photographic records of daily changes in the terminus, or end of the glacier. They will also reevaluate the “mass balance,” or the difference between accumulation and melting of the glacier, and the iceberg production model developed by Post and Tangborn in the 1990s.

The researchers hope to determine the best estimate of glacial retreat and volume loss, evaluate how the icebergs move into the Sound and describe the passage constraints of icebergs over the submerged portion of the Columbia Glacier moraine.

Ultimately, over the next year, Pfeffer and O’Neel hope to develop a forecast for iceberg production by Columbia for the next ten years.

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