Exxon Valdez

On March 24, 1989 at 12:04am the super tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground in the Prince William Sound on the Bligh Reef. Eight out of eleven cargo tanks were punctured releasing 5.8 million gallons of crude oils into the surrounding sea. According to reports from Exxon and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) there were only nineteen crew members and the captain aboard the ship. On the day before the ship arrived at the Alyeska Pipeline Terminal to be loaded for a trip to Long Beach, California.

As loading began and was underway the captain and two other senior officers left the port to visit the town of Valdez. On the trip it was testified that the captain and officers took part in the consumption of alcoholic drinks while away from the port. Upon arrival back to port the ship’s departure time had been moved from 11pm to 9pm giving the captain and crew about thirty six minutes to prepare for departure. The Third Mate Cousins had already preformed the required tests on the safety, navigational, and mechanical gear earlier that evening. The Exxon Valdez left port at 9:12pm with the assistance of tugboats. At 10:49pm it was reported to the ship had cleared the Valdez Narrows and was under way, until the grounding at 12:04am.

The Causes that occurred that lead to the point of running aground is mainly due to human error and fatigue due to lack of rest. The captain radioed the Vessel Traffic Center wanting approval for a course change from the outbound shipping lanes to the inbound lanes in effort to avoid ice drifts. After getting clearance the captain ordered a course change but failed to reduce speed for the maneuver between shipping lanes. He then gave another order for a course change and had the auto pilot set and left the bridge. Cousins was left to man the bridge on his own even though company policy states that all vessels must have two officers on the bridge at all times.

Cousins was coming to the end of his duty shift when he made the decision to allow his replacement to take their time due to the fact that his replacement had worked earlier with the loading of the ship’s cargo. Reported by Exxon, Cousins had taken the proper appointed rest time, but turns out that he violated policy by working through his noticed that the Bligh Reef light was supposed to be on the port side of the ship was actually at a 45 degree angle from the port side. This is when Cousins realized the ship was off course and made efforts to correct the vessel. By the time the captain was notified it was too late the ship hit the reef.

A severe lack of following company policy and set rules with added causes from fatigue caused the Exxon Valdez to run aground. The effects of not following rules and policies ended with major damage to the environment and millions to billions of dollars put forth for the clean-up efforts. The regulations passed as a result of this tragedy was known as the Oil Pollution Act went into effect in August 1990. The act required new requirements from government and industries for a better contingency planning. The Federal Government is required to direct all private and public efforts and response to certain types of spills. The Area Committees (Federal, State, and Local Officials) must make detailed and specific location-area contingency plans.

Companies, private owners of vessels and certain facilities that pose any serious threat must prepare and provide their own Facility Response Plans. As a final measure the OPA broadened the response and enforcement authorities of the Federal Government, increased penalties for regulatory non-compliance, and preserved State authority to make and establish laws governing oil spill prevention and response.

Work sited: http://uk.ask.com/wiki/Exxon_Valdez_oil_spill http://www.groundtruthtekking.org/Issues/AlaskaOilandGas/ExxonValdezSpill.html http://www.epa.gov/oem/content/lawsregs/opaover.htm http://www.evostc.state.ak.us/facts/details.cfm