From Alyeska: New oil spill response barge demonstrates ongoing investment in protecting Prince William Sound

Submitted by Alyeska Corporate Communications

This photo shows a new oil spill response barge with an escort tug alongside the barge.
Alyeska’s newest oil spill response barge, the OSRB-5, alongside the Elrington, one of the escort tugs in SERVS’ fleet. Photo courtesy of Alyeska.

The shine has yet to dim on Alyeska Pipeline Service Company’s newest on-water powerhouse; the OSRB-5 joined the Ship Escort Response Vessel System, or SERVS, fleet in 2023 and is still impressing its crews with its modern and state-of-the-art technologies.

“This barge is another exciting advancement in an already world-class fleet,” said Larry Miles, SERVS marine superintendent. “She’s an investment – though hopefully never needed – in keeping Prince William Sound safe for years to come.”

SERVS was created after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, to prevent oil spills and provide oil spill preparedness and response capabilities for Alyeska and the marine shipping companies who operate the tankers that call at the Valdez Marine Terminal. Working closely with the U.S. Coast Guard, SERVS personnel monitor vessel traffic so tankers can safely travel through the Sound and coordinate a fleet of purpose-built vessels and response equipment.

The OSRB-5 replaced the Mineral Creek, a 40-year-old lightering barge, usually stationed at Naked Island in mid-Prince William Sound.

The OSRB-5 was built by Gunderson shipyard in Portland, Oregon. At 400 feet long and 96 feet wide, it shares much of the same design and equipment as other barges, with key differences that make it unique and amplify its versatility.

As a lightering barge, its primary purpose is to remove cargo from a tanker in peril; it has large fenders to protect both vessels when alongside each other. The OSRB-5 also has state-of-the-art Crucial disk skimming capabilities for open water operations. It offloads mini barges used by fishing vessels to collect oil near shorelines.

After learning from the other OSRBs for the last five years, SERVS crews requested a specific paint along the deck where boom is managed. The first OSRBs had non-skid paint that impacted the boom.
The OSRB-5 features an extra generator and hydraulic power unit to run the mini barge offloading station and the deluge pump for snow removal was upgraded to a deep well pump.

Alyeska’s ongoing commitments to Prince William Sound meet the requirements and expectations of its contingency plan, to be ready and prepared to protect the Sound, its waters, and shorelines from impacts of incidents related to oil transport. It’s the singular focus of the crew at SERVS – a tight-knit team personally invested in the health and vibrancy of the region.

Science Night 2023 – Videos now available

Systems and Methods: Connecting across the Exxon Valdez oil spill region

Science Night is an annual event hosted by the Prince William Regional Citizens Advisory Council. Topics focus on research related to the safe transportation of oil through Prince William Sound.

Individual presentations can be viewed below, or you can view the full playlist directly on the Council’s Youtube Channel: Science Night 2023

On this page:

  1. Let the Hydrocarbons in Prince William Sound Talk
  2. Forage Fish Update
  3. Tsumani/landslide hazards in Prince William Sound
  4. Alaska Spill Response Wildlife Aid

Let the Hydrocarbons in Prince William Sound Talk: 30 years of Environmental Monitoring through PWSRCAC’s LTEMP

Presenter: Dr. Morgan Bender, Senior Scientist, Owl Ridge Natural Resource Consultants, Inc.

The PWSRCAC’s Long-Term Environmental Monitoring Program (LTEMP) is one of the longest-standing hydrocarbon assessment programs of its kind and provides us with annual data on how and where hydrocarbons enter Prince William Sound and the potential effects they may have on the marine ecosystem. Morgan, an Alaska-based ecotoxicologist, will lead us through the 30-year LTEMP investigative process and major findings to inform and excite Science Night participants on LTEMP’s past, present, and future.

View Let the Hydrocarbons in Prince William Sound Talk directly on YouTube.

Forage Fish Update

Presenter: Scott Pegau, Research Program Manager, Oil Spill Recovery Institute

Forage fish provide a critical link between plankton and large predators like birds, mammals, and other fish. Pacific herring, sand lance, capelin, and juvenile pollock are a few of the many forage fish in PWS. Most of the information we have on forage fish is associated with herring because of its historic commercial importance but there is some information on other species. This presentation takes a look at some of the existing research into forage fish in Prince William Sound.

View Forage Fish Update directly on YouTube.

Advancing our understanding of tsunamigenic landslide hazards in Prince William Sound, Alaska

Presenter: Dennis M. Staley, Research Physical Scientist, U.S. Geological Survey – Alaska Volcano Observatory

Exposure to landslide and tsunami hazards are a part of life for those who reside in the seaside communities of coastal Alaska and the people who work or recreate in coastal waterways. Recently, the recognition of the landslide-generated tsunami hazard posed by the Barry Arm landslide in northwestern Prince William Sound has attracted considerable attention in the public and media, at local, state, and federal governments, and in the scientific community. This presentation focuses on the ongoing effort to assess hazard and warn for a tsunami produced by the Barry Arm landslide, and on scientific investigations into the prevalence of this type of natural hazard at other locations in Prince William Sound.

View Advancing our understanding of tsunamigenic landslide hazards in Prince William Sound directly on YouTube.

Alaska Spill Response Wildlife Aid

Presenter: Bridget Crokus, Deputy Oil Spill Response Coordinator, USFWS Alaska Region

Protecting fish, wildlife, and their habitats is a primary response objective after an oil spill. First-hand accounts of wildlife in or near an oil spill are invaluable to a successful wildlife response. Bridget will present the Alaska Spill Response Wildlife ID Aid, a tool developed to help spill responders “take a wildlife minute” and record the wildlife they see.

View Alaska Spill Response Wildlife Aid directly on YouTube.

Annual Report now available

Front cover of the report. Image is of a rocky beach in Prince William Sound covered with mussels and other tidal critters. Mountains and ocean in the background. Clicking on the image will download a PDF of the report.The Council’s annual report, Year in Review 2022/2023, is now available. This report covers the many programs and projects we’ve been working on over the past year, such as oil spill prevention and response, environmental monitoring, oil spill contingency plans, operations at the Valdez Marine Terminal, invasive species monitoring, our outreach efforts, and much more. Highlights from this year include:

  • An assessment of risks and safety culture at the Valdez Marine Terminal
  • Ensuring the adequacy of secondary containment liners for the terminal’s crude oil storage tanks
  • Supporting solutions for sustainable funding for state spill
    prevention and response
  • Improvements to how the Council monitors weather and sea currents in our region
  • Monitoring oil spill drills and exercises
  • Reexamining the Council’s position on use of dispersants in our region

Download: 2022-2023 Annual Report

Surveys emphasize importance of protecting nearshore habitat for wintering birds

Three years of data from surveys of marine bird species is now available online. The data is intended to help identify areas where marine birds tend to congregate in the winter, so that protective measures can be taken in the event of a spill in Prince William Sound.

Previously, most surveys of birds and mammals were conducted in Prince William Sound during spring, summer, or fall. This data from winter adds depth to our understanding of bird populations and the risks posed to birds from an oil spill.

Additionally, these surveys provide baseline monitoring information that can be used to understand the environmental impacts of terminal and tanker operations on marine bird species. The surveys were conducted in winter, which is an important time for marine bird survival given the typically harsh conditions.

Researchers identified 23 distinct bird species. Murrelets were the most common marine bird at 38% of sightings. Pelagic cormorants and common murres were the next most common.

Data available online

The results of the surveys are publicly available online. A map of the data is through the Alaska Ocean Observing System and NOAA’s Environmental Response Management Application (ERMA).

These surveys continue the work done by the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council’s Gulf Watch Alaska, which started monitoring in 2007. Datasets from 2007-2023 are available on the Alaska Ocean Observing System’s website (

Download the final report

Marine Bird Winter Surveys in Prince William Sound – 2023

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