Environmental Sciences and Ethics Paper-Exxon Valdez

One drunken Captain Joseph J. Hazelwood creates the worlds worst oil spill with the help from Exxon USA. Exxon enabled Captain Hazelwood, a drunk, to have control of one of their oil tankers. Since Exxon knew of Hazelwoods alcohol problem, they bare a large part of the blame that causes this environmental disaster.

The harbor pilot gives back control of the oil tanker Exxon Valdez, to Hazelwood. The captain started giving a series of unusual orders such as, ordering Maureen Jones to stand her watch from the bridge instead of at the point 800 ft in front of the bridge.

Ordered the helmsman, Harry Claar, to accelerate to sea speed and to put the ship on autopilot, all of these orders were in place before the Exxon Valdez is in the open waters. In direct contradiction of Exxons policy, Hazelwood left the bridge and went below deck, leaving command of the bridge with Third Mate Gregory T. Cousin. Before leaving the bridge Hazelwood gave orders to the Third Mate Cousins to continue southerly to the lighted buoy off Busby Island, and then returned the Exxon Valdez back into the shipping lanes.

Cousins discovered that the ship was on autopilot, Cousins turned off the autopilot and turn on the radar in-order to concentrate on missing any ice floes in the shipping lanes. Hazelwood planned a course that would shirt the southern edge of that 10-mile opening in-order to avoid the ice floes.

Third Mate Cousins was consumed with the calculations needed in-order to make the turn back safely back into the shipping lanes, but he missed the Busby Island light where he was to start his turn. Cousins had no idea how far off course he was until the ships lookout, Jones, informed him the flashing red light off Bligh Island was on the starboard side which is not where he should have been when heading out to sea.

Cousins tried to head back to the shipping lanes, to no avail, in a short period time about 15 minutes the ship went aground on the Bligh Reef causing eight holes to be punched into the hull. The Exxon Valdez started spilling its cargo into the Prince William Sound, ultimately about 11 million gallons of crude oil. Cousins called the Captain back to the bridge, and Hazelwood spent 15 to 20 minutes trying to back off the Bligh Reef to no avail. Once Hazelwood finally realized he was not going to able to free the Exxon Valdez from the reef, only then did he finally contact the Coast Guard to inform them of the grounding of his ship Exxon Valdez on Bligh Reef and that the ship was spilling oil into the sea.

Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, the consortium of seven oil companies. Alyeska, when they were seeking approval for the pipeline, boasted and promised that the operations in Prince William Sound would be the safest in the world. The Alyeska safety plan called for containment booms, and skimming equipment, and barges in-order to off load the oil from a spill to shore for disposal.

Unfortunately, Alyeska had estimated that a spill of the size of Exxon Valdez could happen only once every 241 years, so it seemed pointless to keep all that equipment around and all those experts on the payroll. In 1981 the hazardous waste team was disbanded. Because of the non existence of a hazardous waste team, Alyeska was unprepared for any kind of an oil spill. When the accident happened, one of the barges was in dry dock.

Alyeska then had to locate the equipment like the skimmers and boom. Eventually, they found the equipment in a local warehouse, and then they had to dig the equipment out from the warehouse. After 14 hours of delays, some 25 tons of equipment finally arrived at the oil spill. Being too little, and being too late to be much good.

The cleanup team believed it would be possible to use a chemical dispersant on the oil spill. The problem with the dispersant it that needed lots of wave action in-order for it to break up the oil, but the problem in the area of the oil spill was that the seas were extremely calm. Besides the chemical only hides the oil below the surface, it does not destroy the oil. But the problem to use or not to use the dispersant was moot because the amount of dispersant that was on hand was only 69 barrels. The treatment that it would have taken to do this job would have been well over 10,000 barrels, and there was not that many barrels of dispersant in the world at the time.

What are some of the ethical questions that came out because of this environmental disaster? First the cost associated with keeping a hazardous waste team together in my opinion, should not have been an issue. The cost of a major cleanup far exceeds the cost of keeping a hazardous waste team in place. The best interest of the people is the land and the sea, not just the bottom line for Alyeska. It should not be the cost of keeping such a team together; it is the right thing to do. Besides, Alyeska promised to have a hazardous waste team in place at all times, and to have all the equipment and man power needed in case of an oil spill.

The most ethical thing that they should have done is to keep their word, but it has become obvious their word was not any good. The chaos that followed this disaster is unforgivable. The death toll on the wild life and to the environment is not known even today, only time will tell the story some day. It was a sad day when more was accomplished by individual groups rather than by the so called people in charge.

Changes to safety such as double hull ships are now the norm, rather than the exception. Hazardous waste teams and equipment are now in place sadly it had to be mandated by law. These types of changes, in my opinion, should have been in place from the beginning. If they were in place at that time, it could have been possible that this oil spill could have been less of an impact on the wild life and the environment. As long as the world thinks it needs oil for everyday life, there will always be a chance for another disaster like the Exxon Valdez or maybe the next one might be even worse.

ReferencesOil on the Rocks. (n.d.). Watersheds 4: Ten Cases in Environmental Ethics, 4e Chapter 5. Retrieved June 22, 2007 from University of Phoenix