On March 24, 1989, an Exxon supertanker spilled 11 million gallons of oil while traveling through the pristine waters of Alaska’s Prince William Sound. The consequences of this spill were detrimental and continue to affect life today. The oil spill killed thousands of wildlife, extensively damaged a portion of the beautiful Alaskan environment, and eventually affected the economy to global proportions. Unfortunately, this tragedy could have been prevented. Lack of adequate safety efforts, enforcement, and regulations all played a major role in this truly catastrophic event. However, Prince William Sound’s remote location made government and industry relief efforts extremely difficult.
The Alaskan community and the United States heavily criticized Exxon for their slow response to one of the largest environmental disasters of the century. The failed clean up left Exxon with several lawsuits that led to extreme political consequences. The environmental and economical effects were devastating and continue to be an issue in today’s society.
Stakeholders: * Exxon Co. & Employees * Coast Guard * Local Vendors * Wildlife (Animals) * Fishermen * Population of Alaska * Government Agencies * Lawyers * Clean-up crews * Investors * Lawyers * Other oil tanker companies * Environmentalists * Volunteers
Issues: * Exxon operated with faulty equipment * Staff failed to repair the Raycas radar system on the ship
* This would have indicated the impending collision with the Bligh Reef
* The radar had been disabled for over a year; the company was aware of this
* Exxon operated with lack of staff
* Exxon failed to supervise the master and provide rest
* There was not a sufficient crew on ship * Lack of money * The original contingency plans were designed for spills involving 200,000 oil barrels
* Huge spills were only predicted to occur every 241 years
* Considered an unlikely event * Initial plan did not require barges to be unloaded * Lack of preparation and training for employees * Lack of equipment personnel * Tanker inspections were not completed prior * Equipment was not located at the terminal * Snow was on top of the equipment * Skimmers only collect 1% of any spill * Crew members performed multiple duties, causing fatigue
* Coast Guard failed at providing safe boat traffic system and environment * They advertised safe traffic lanes * However, there were ice in the waters and with rough currents
* Ships were able to move out of designated traffic lanes with ease * Supertanker faded out of the radar screen
* Never full radar coverage to begin with * Coast Guard assumed the ship was out of range * The Coast Guard detected alcohol on Captain Hazelwood’s breath, yet took no action
* Lack of double bottom cushion * This could have reduced amounts of spill by up to 60%
* Captain Hazelwood violated company and national policies
* Hazelwood was not in his required position on the bridge
* Two crew members are required to be on deck, but there was only one
* The 3rd mate was driving the boat during the incident; he was not qualified or properly trained for this job
* Hazelwood consumed alcohol within 4 hours of departing
* Hazelwood reported a reduction in speed and change in course; this was not entirely accurate
* Exxon and the United States government stalled the clean-up efforts
* Hundreds of thousands of Alaskan wildlife were killed
* Salmon, sea otters, seals, birds * Unemployment eventually resulted from the spill * Reduced tourism including all recreational sports (fishing, etc.)
* Lack of Leadership from company or government agency
Timelines: PAST- There was more safety regulations than today. Radar and monitoring were heavily used to enforce seriously among the tanking community. Goals were aimed toward proper spill prevention and procedures with the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasures regulation in effect. This required every company to have a spill prevention plan, with the proper equipment and employee training to handle such an occurrence.
PRESENT- While safety regulations are still in effect, they are not enforced with rigor. The Coast Guard, Exxon, the government, and employees are responsible for being able to perform their duties. This has not occurred with the crew not trained in their position properly, the Coast Guard not enforcing traffic laws, and the rejection of radar systems by the company of Exxon. These are examples of everyone not looking out for the safety of themselves and others.
FUTURE- From this event, it is clear the future will require strict safety regulations with strong enforcement from all agencies involved. It needs to be focused on preparation and prevention of all oil spills. For example, the Coast Guard should do accurate and timely check to ensure the equipment and staff is properly equipped for their journey. Also, there needs to be a more thorough conversation and procedure between the ship and government agency when reporting any type of emergency situation.
Alternatives: 1. NO CHANGE- Careless safety regulations would continue to run the oil industry.
* Pros: * Cheaper and easier since no action is required * Cons: * Possibilities of more oil spills occurring again * Threat to employees, environment, and economy due to lack of enforcement of safety regulations
* Painful for public to watch this happen 2. MORE PRIVATE-SECTOR INTERVENTION- Safety would improve with the implementation of new procedures and policies. * Pros: * Fresh thinking * Increased safety checks * Improved technology on the ship * Revised policies by people educated in the field * Cons: * Potential to be extremely costly * Government needs funds that will be likely be taken from taxes
* Public might be angered and feel that the private sector would be in too much control of the industry 3. MORE PUBLIC-SECTOR INTERVENTION- Safety conditions would improve, as there would be heavy implementation of fines, fees, training, and enforcement.
* Effective in prevention for future oil spills * More rules would be in circulation; hopefully followed with strong enforcement
* Cons: * Time-consuming for all parties involved * Formulation of new rules costs money * Lack of power of public-sector to enforce 4. INPUT FROM BOTH PRIVATE AND PUBLIC SECTORS- Safety will be maintained with a healthy balance that will be implemented efficiently.
* Pros: * Safety guidelines are newly implemented and enforced equally * Prevention plans have opportunity to be put in place
* Equal support from both sides * Cons: * Disagreements between two sectors * One side having more sway over the other; causing conflict Decisions: In the Exxon Valdez case, the decision was made to not properly enforce the safety regulations. This caused a catastrophic oil spill due to negligent care and responsibility from all parties.
Consequences: Certain consequence that can occur from this decision can be deadly. An oil spill of this size affects many different aspects.
* Dead Animals- * Thousands of animals are either killed or their habitat has been destroyed. The physical and emotional effects are detrimental * Decrease in Tourism- * The land is destroyed in beauty and use. People are no longer attracted to that certain area because they cannot participate in their usual activities. Lack of tourism eliminates jobs and revenue streams. * Overall Quality of Life is Diminished-
* The land, town, and reputation are destroyed. People do not want to live an area that has been ruined or associate with that type of tragedy. * Outrage from Public- * Companies have to not only deal with government agencies, but from the angered public as well. It can be a stressful situation for all parties involved. * Stress on the Economy & Environment-
* Hard to recover in the many offices that have to respond to such a crisis Feedback: Feedback is a valuable resource that allows issues in the case to be resolved. Organized feedback gives the opportunity for a detailed list of solutions to be brought forward. When discussed through many different outlets, there is a rich center of ideas to help improve situations * Citizens of Alaska-
* They have the right and the opportunity to band together to discuss their thoughts on the situation * It is their job to protect their homeland * Initiate a council of leaders to help organize and direct the situation * Companies (Oil Industry)- * Even though businesses are competitive, they can share and learn from their experiences * Collaborate to provide the best safety regulations and prevention plans * Communicate when difficulties arise; draw on shared experiences * State of Alaska & US Government-
* All feedback will generally be directed toward them * It is their responsibility to determine effective, proactive responses and strategies to any issues brought to their attention
Adjustment: In this case, five laws were broken from existing safety regulations. This clearly indicates that enforcement needs to be stronger. All parties involved in this incident lacked some sort of safety in some way. With an excellent mix of new rules, regulations, and fees balanced with strong enforcement from proper agencies this disastrous event can be prevented from future occurrences. This will include but certainly will not be limited too ships having the proper equipment on board and the Coast Guard adequately trained to handle emergency situations.
Future Policies: Gross negligence is the main factor to blame for this tragic incident. Policies need to address all members that have a responsibility and access to this. All stakeholders play a role, and to some degree, have a certain accountability to their cause they need to honor. Future policies need to address that by defining that role a little clearer. Once these policies are perfected under American soil, a future policy should address an international plan with aid and assistance.
While prevention remains the primary goal, if and when a similar emergency situation arises, people need to be ready to help. It is crucial to provide assistance when called upon. These future policies will address and define that procedure.
3 Most Important Things Business People can Learn: 1. While prevention is a primary goal for any negative situation, you must be prepared for them if they do occur. 2. Enforce rules and regulations in your field. Create a safer environment by leading by example. 3. Use your resources wisely and call for assistance when needed. Weak safety can lead to a catastrophic event. Do not be held responsible because you did not take action when necessary.
Outstanding Concerns: * INTERNATIONAL * These rules and regulations are for American waters. International plans have not been heavily designed or are widely unknown. * Foreign countries need to learn from this mistake and be prepared for any similar situation * Countries should use each other as resources and learn from each other’s experiences * ETHICS
* A leader needs to emerge from any organization * They need to step up in time of need and take responsibility for company’s actions