Jul 11, 2019 in Review

Essay summary

The Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in Prince William Sound, Alaska, on March 24, 1989. It is considered as one of the world's largest oil spills in terms of volume released and one of the most devastating human-caused environmental disasters ever to occur in the history of ships.

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 The oil spill caused a number of economic and social problems, among them; some 10.8 million U.S. gallons (about 40 million liters) of Prudhoe Bay crude oil was spilled into the sea, thus causing a major economic disaster as The people of Alaska's South-central coast, Exxon and the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company came to pay a heavy price  The oil covered 11,000 square miles of ocean a region that was a habitat for sea otters, seals, salmon, and seabirds consequently a major environmental degradation was caused resulting to the death of so many sea lives. However, no human lives were lost as a direct result of the disaster, though four deaths were associated with the cleanup effort. More so, the human and natural losses were immense to subsistence livelihoods, tourism, fisheries, and wildlife. The most fundamental loss for those who will never visit the site was the feeling that something sacred in the relatively virgin land and waters of Alaska had been defiled.

 What exactly happened is that;The ship departed from the Trans Alaska Pipeline terminal with William Murphy, as the ship's pilot hired to facilitate the navigation of the 986-foot vessel through the Valdez Narrows, and was in control of the wheelhouse. In the cabin was the vessel’s captain , Joe Hazelwood. Helmsman Harry Claar 

was also steering. After passing through Valdez Narrows, pilot Murphy left the vessel and Captain Hazelwood took over the wheelhouse. The ship encountered icebergs in the shipping lanes and Captain Hazelwood ordered Claar to take the ship out of the shipping lanes to go around the icebergs. He then left Mate Gregory Cousins over control of the wheelhouse with precise instructions to turn back into the shipping lanes when the tanker reached a certain point. At that time, Claar was replaced by Helmsman Robert Kagan. For reasons that remain mystery, Cousins and Kagan failed to make the turn back into the shipping lanes and the ship ran aground on Bligh Reef. Captain Hazelwood was in his quarters at the time.

 There are a number of speculations on the cause of the ship’s accident. Significantly, the ship’s captain is said to have been drunk as his eyes looked watery and the odor of alcohol coming from his breath he was also seen at a local bar that evening and so therefore he might have failed to provide proper navigation for the ship. Secondly, without undermining the impact of Hazelwood's actions, one basic conclusion of this report is that the grounding at Bligh Reef represents the most possible cause of the accident. The weather conditions at the site were, reported to be hostile, not favorable at all for a ship in voyage and likely to cause visual difficulties to the captain. This is because, the conditions are reported to be; 33 degrees F, slight drizzle rain/snow mixed, north winds at 10 knots and visibility 10 miles at the time of the grounding. These conditions may also be a contributory effect to the accident.

The failure of the third mate to properly maneuver the vessel, possibly due to fatigue and excessive workload; The failure of Exxon Shipping Company to supervise the master and provide a rested and sufficient crew for the Exxon Valdez; The failure of the U.S. Coast Guard to provide an effective vessel traffic system. The lack of effective pilot and escort services.

In my conclusion as I provide my solutions into this, is that it is very important for people to learn being responsible. As we can see ninety percent of the speculated causes is as a result of contributory negligence by the parties involved. Good company policies that can deal with such cases in future should also be addressed by the shipping companies. This is because, apparently, the Exxon faced some difficulties in coordinating the voyage resulting to devastating failures.

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