No oil spilled in Alaska after tugboat strikes tanker ship

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — No oil was spilled when a tugboat hit a docked tanker ship and gashed its hull in southcentral Alaska last week, officials said.

The tugboat struck the Polar Endeavor oil tanker at the Valdez Marine Terminal Jan. 11, the Anchorage Daily News reported Tuesday.

The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating the collision that injured one crew member of the tugboat named Courageous.

The collision happened as the tugboat approached the Polar Endeavour, which was sationary at the dock after loading oil cargo, said Brooke Taylor of the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council.

The tugboat was out of control and collided with the tanker, slicing it open and allowing ballast water from the tanker to spill into the water, Taylor said.

“I don’t believe the tanker was in motion,” Taylor said.

The tanker underwent repairs to make it seaworthy and both vessels were inspected by the Coast Guard before being returned to service, Taylor said.

The 900-foot (274-meter) oil tanker was built in 2001 and is owned by ConocoPhillips, Alaska’s leading oil producer.

The gash of less than 3 feet (0.91 metres ) happened about 10 feet (3.05 metres ) above the water line, said Crystal Smith of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

The agency is gathering information and investigating with the Coast Guard to avoid another similar collision, Smith said.

“It’s important to understand why this incident happened, to make sure appropriate safety measures were taken to ensure something like this doesn’t happen in the future,” Smith said.

The marine terminal is about 100 miles (161 kilometres ) east of Anchorage in Prince William Sound, where 11 million gallons (41,639 kilolitres ) of oil spilled after the tanker Exxon Valdez struck a reef in 1989.

The terminal receives 500,000 barrels of oil produced daily on Alaska’s North Slope. The oil is transferred to tankers and transported to refineries primarily on the U.S. West Coast.

The citizens' advisory council, which was created by Congress to help prevent a repeat of the Exxon Valdez spill, is seeking more information about the collision from terminal operator Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.

Alyeska contracts with Louisiana-based Edison Chouest Offshore, which owns the 140-foot (43-meter) tugboat, Taylor said.

Edison Chouest did not immediately return requests for comment.

The company took over oil spill prevention and response duties at the port in 2018. An Edison Chouest tugboat struck and dented a tanker that year.

Two days later a second Edison Chouest tugboat touched bottom and damaged a skiff. The events prompted Coast Guard investigations.

The Associated Press