Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Presentation
Research and make a video on a real oil spill event while following the criteria on the rubric.
The video must have captions, slides/pictures and be 4 minutes in length of info on the event.
The Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in Prince William Sound, Alaska, on March 24, 1989. Exxon Valdez, an oil supertanker owned by Exxon Shipping Company bound for Long Beach, California struck Prince William Sound’s Bligh Reef, 1.5 mi (2.4 km) west of Tatitlek, Alaska at 12:04 a.m. and spilled 10.8 million US gallons (257,000 bbl) (or 37,000 tonnes) of crude oil over the next few days.
The Exxon Valdez spill is the second largest in U.S. waters, after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, in terms of volume of oil released. Prince William Sound’s remote location, accessible only by helicopter, plane, or boat, made government and industry response efforts difficult and made existing response plans especially hard to implement. The region is a habitat for salmon, sea otters, seals, and seabirds. The oil, extracted from the Prudhoe Bay Oil Field, eventually affected 1,300 miles (2,100 km) of coastline, of which 200 miles (320 km) were heavily or moderately oiled.
Exxon Valdez was carrying 53.1 million US gallons (1,260,000 bbl; 201,000 m3) of oil, of which approximately 10.8 million US gallons (260,000 bbl; 41,000 m3) were spilled into the Prince William Sound.
The ship docked at the Valdez Marine Terminal at 11:30 p.m. on March 22, 1989. Loading of crude oil was completed late in the day on the 23rd. The tanker left the terminal at 9:12 p.m. March 23, 1989 (the deck log shows that it was clear of the dock at 9.21 p.m.) , loaded with 53,094,510 gallons (1,264,155 barrels) of crude oil. Captain Joseph Hazelwood retired to his cabin at 9.25 p.m.. Harbor pilot William Murphy and Third Mate Gregory Cousins were accompanied by a single tug for the passage through the Valdez Narrows – a journey of about 7 miles. The pilot left the bridge shortly after the vessel left the narrows, at 11.24 p.m. At this point, the captain was called to the bridge. Cousins helped the pilot disembark from the vessel, leaving the captain as the only officer on the bridge. At 11.25 Exxon Valdez reported that the pilot had left. The third mate advised traffic control and decided to deviate from the predetermined traffic lane to avoid small icebergs; a common occurrence since the Columbia Glacier calved such icebergs nearby. The vessel was placed on a due south course and set on autopilot. At 11.47 p.m. the vessel left the traffic lane’s eastern boundary.
Third Mate Cousins had been on duty for 6 hours and was scheduled to be relieved by Second Mate Lloyd LeCain Jr. However, due to the long hours that the second mate had worked, Cousins was reluctant to wake him, and remained on duty. Cousins was the only officer on the bridge for most of the night, in violation of company policy. At around midnight on March 24 Cousins began to maneuver the vessel into the traffic lanes. At the same time, the lookout reported that the Bligh Reef light appeared far off the starboard bow at 45 degrees – this was problematic given that the light should have been off the port side. Cousins ordered a course change as the ship was in danger. Captain Hazelwood was phoned by Cousins, but before their conversation could finish, the ship grounded. At 12.04 a.m., accompanied by what the helmsman and Cousins described as “a bumpy ride and “six very sharp jolts” respectively, the ship ran aground on Bligh Reef.
Carried by its own momentum, the ship ended up perched on its middle on a pinnacle of rock. 8 out of 11 cargo holds were punctured. 5.8 million gallons of oil drained from the ship within 3 hours and 15 minutes. 30 minutes after numerous attempts to dislodge the ship under her own power, Captain Hazelwood radioed the Coast Guard informing them of the grounding. For more than 45 minutes after the grounding, the captain attempted to maneuver free of the reef despite being informed by First Mate James Kunkel that the vessel was not structurally sound without the reef supporting it.
During the first few days of the spill, heavy sheens of oil covered large areas of the surface of Prince William Sound.
Multiple factors have been identified as contributing to the incident:
Beginning three days after the vessel grounded, a storm pushed large quantities of fresh oil onto the rocky shores of many of the beaches in the Knight Island chain. In this photograph, pooled black oil is shown stranded in the rocks
Exxon Shipping Company failed to supervise the master (ship’s captain) and provide a rested and sufficient crew for Exxon Valdez. The NTSB found this practice was widespread throughout the industry, prompting a safety recommendation to Exxon and to the industry.
The third mate failed to properly maneuver the vessel, possibly due to fatigue or excessive workload.
Exxon Shipping Company failed to properly maintain the Raytheon Collision Avoidance System (RAYCAS) radar, which, if functional, would have indicated to the third mate an impending collision with the Bligh Reef by detecting the radar reflector placed on the next rock inland from Bligh Reef for the purpose of keeping ships on course. This cause was brought forward by Greg Palast and is not presented in the official accident report.
Captain Hazelwood, who was widely reported to have been drinking heavily that night, was not at the controls when the ship struck the reef. Exxon blamed Hazelwood for the grounding of the tanker, but he accused the corporation of making him a scapegoat. In a 1990 trial he was charged with criminal mischief, reckless endangerment, and piloting a vessel while intoxicated, but was cleared of the three charges. He was convicted of misdemeanor negligent discharge of oil. 21 witnesses testified that he did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol around the time of the accident.
Journalist Greg Palast stated in 2008:
Forget the drunken skipper fable. As to Captain Joe Hazelwood, he was below decks, sleeping off his bender. At the helm, the third mate may never have collided with Bligh Reef had he looked at his RAYCAS radar. But the radar was not turned on. In fact, the tanker’s radar was left broken and disabled for more than a year before the disaster, and Exxon management knew it. It was just too expensive to fix and operate.
Other factors, according to an MIT course entitled “Software System Safety” by Professor Nancy G. Leveson, included:
Ships were not informed that the previous practice of the Coast Guard tracking ships out to Bligh Reef had ceased.
The oil industry promised, but never installed, state-of-the-art iceberg monitoring equipment.
Exxon Valdez was sailing outside the normal sea lane to avoid small icebergs thought to be in the area.
Coast Guard vessel inspections in Valdez were not performed, and the number of staff was reduced.
Lack of available equipment and personnel hampered the spill cleanup.
This disaster resulted in International Maritime Organization introducing comprehensive marine pollution prevention rules (MARPOL) through various conventions. The rules were ratified by member countries and, under International Ship Management rules, the ships are being operated with a common objective of “safer ships and cleaner oceans.”
In 2009, Captain Hazelwood offered a “heartfelt apology” to the people of Alaska, suggesting he had been wrongly blamed for the disaster: “The true story is out there for anybody who wants to look at the facts, but that’s not the sexy story and that’s not the easy story,” he said. Hazelwood said he felt Alaskans always gave him a fair shake.