Exxon Valdez

Exxon Valdez (pronounced Valdeez)

The Exxon Valdez was a large scale oil spill which occurred in Prince William Sound, Alaska, on March 24, 1989. The Exxon Valdez was an oil tanker destined for Long Beach California when disaster struck. The tanker hit Prince William sounds bligh reef resulting in a spill of some 260,000 to 750,000 barrels (41,000 to 119,000 m3) of crude oil. The pristine white Alaskan shoreline was devastated. It is thought that this was one of the most devastating human-caused environmental disasters in history. It was certainly the largest spill ever within US waters. Response efforts were hampered due to the remote location of Prince William sound.

The captain was confirmed to be asleep when the ship crashed in Prince William Sound’s reef. He was apparently sleeping of his excessive consumption of alcohol. At the helm, the third mate never would have collided with Bligh Reef had he looked at his RAYCAS radar. It later transpired the radar was not turned on. Further investigations found the radar was in fact broken, and had been disabled for more than a year. Exxon Management were aware of this, but chose not to fix it as this was deemed too expensive.  Exxon blamed Captain Hazelwood for the grounding of the tanker.

Other factors, included:

  1. Tanker crews were not told that the previous practice of the Coast Guard tracking ships out to Bligh reef had ceased.
  2. The oil industry promised, but never installed, state-of-the-art iceberg monitoring equipment.
  3. Exxon Valdez was sailing outside the normal sea lane to avoid small icebergs thought to be in the area.
  4. The 1989 tanker crew was half the size of the 1977 crew, worked 12−14 hour shifts, plus overtime. The crew was rushing to leave Valdez with a load of oil.
  5. Coast Guard tanker inspections in Valdez were not done, and the number of staff was reduced.
  6. Lack of available equipment and personnel hampered the spill cleanup.

The cleanup took years.

The disaster led to the creation of OPA90 (Oil Pollution Act 1990) this called for the introduction of double hulls amongst other things.

The report prepared on the oil spill by the National Response Team for the attention of the US president can be found here http://docs.lib.noaa.gov/noaa_documents/NOAA_related_docs/oil_spills/ExxonValdez_NRT_1989_report_to_president.pdf

After being refitted Exxon Valdez was renamed Exxon Mediterranean and returned to service.  During the 1990s the vessel was renamed again to Sea River Mediterranean.  In 2008 Exxon sold her to Hong Kong Bloom Shipping Ltd who refitted and converted her to an ore carrier, at this time she was again renamed Dong Fang Ocean.  The Dong Fang Ocean was finally sold for scrap in March 2012 following a collision with mv Aali on 29th November 2010 which resulted in serious damage to both vessels.