How Alaskans redefined oil spill prevention and response

Governor Steve Cowper signs into law a suite of bills developed to enhance Alaska’s oil spill preparedness in the wake of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Photo courtesy of David Rogers
Governor Steve Cowper signs into law a suite of bills developed to enhance Alaska’s oil spill preparedness in the wake of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Photo courtesy of David Rogers.

Council report documents the history and intent behind Alaska’s standard for spill response planning

Alaska, and Prince William Sound in particular, is known for its world-class oil spill prevention and response system. But it wasn’t always that way. In March of 1989, when the Exxon Valdez ran aground and spilled an estimated 11 million gallons of crude oil, responders were ill-prepared.

“Nothing arrived. There was nothing there.”

– Marilyn Heiman
Staff member for the Alaska House Resources Committee,
on the experience of waiting days for equipment to arrive.

Read moreHow Alaskans redefined oil spill prevention and response

Whittier community engages with on-water oil spill response training

Photo of two of the new Edison Chouest tugs, and an an oil spill response barge who were participating in the training.
Two of the new Edison Chouest tugs and an oil spill support barge participated in the training.

The Council held its fourth annual fishing vessel oil spill response training tour in Whittier, Alaska, on September 25, 2018. The Whittier community was invited to join the council from 11:30 to 1:30 p.m., on a Stan Stephens Cruises vessel to observe the training. Over 60 members of the public participated in the event, including 25 students from Whittier Community School.

Whittier student Abi, 16, stated about the event, “It matters because it keeps our oceans clean and helps keep people knowledgeable about how to respond to the spills. I might want to do it when I get old enough.”

The local fishermen participating in the training are contracted by the Ship Escort/Response Vessel System, also known as SERVS, to respond in the event of a Prince William Sound tanker or Valdez Marine Terminal oil spill. SERVS is Alyeska Pipeline Service Company’s oil spill response organization and coordinates annual oil spill response exercises in multiple Southcentral Alaska communities, including Whittier.

Read moreWhittier community engages with on-water oil spill response training

Oil spill prevention and response services transition to new contractor

Link to more photos of new equipment
More photos of new equipment.

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.

Read moreOil spill prevention and response services transition to new contractor

Changes to oil spill contingency plans approved

Extensive amendments due to transition

Photo of oil spill contingency plans with the caption: What is a contingency plan? A contingency plan, or “c-plan,” outlines steps to be taken before, during, and after an emergency. An oil spill contingency plan contains detailed information on how to prevent an oil spill, as well as response activities in the event a spill occurs. Preventing an oil spill from occurring in the first place is the most effective way to protect human health and the environment. If an oil spill occurs, however, a systematic and well-organized approach is necessary to quickly contain and control a spill. Responding efficiently and effectively to a spill requires advanced planning and preparedness.
What is a contingency plan?

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation recently approved major amendments to oil spill contingency plans for both the Valdez Marine Terminal and for the tankers that transport oil through Prince William Sound. Both approvals came with conditions.

Neither the tanker plan, nor the terminal plan was due for a renewal. However, Edison Chouest Offshore is bringing so much new equipment and personnel to their new role as Alyeska’s marine services contractor that major changes were needed to both plans. Major amendments require a public comment period.

Read moreChanges to oil spill contingency plans approved

Skip to content