Last Friday President Barack Obama signed the United States Coast Guard Re-Authorization Act, which includes language requiring the continued use of two tugboats for each oil tanker leaving the port of Valdez. The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 required double tug escorts for single-hulled tankers, but was silent on their use for more modern double-hull ships. This act mandates two tugs for all tankers.
Prince William Sound Regional Citizens Advisory Council spokesman Stan Jones said his organization had been fighting for the rule for several years.
— (Tankers 1 19 sec "That’s how we look at it … preserve these dual escort tugs.")
Though the fleet is transitioning to all double-hulled ships by law, some of them are already getting pretty long in the tooth:
— (Tankers 2 23 sec "They were built in the … see this bill become law.")
Jones says that double-hull tankers are not spill-proof. He says it’s estimated that if the Exxon Valdez were of such a design it still could have spilled up to 4-million gallons. And, as was demonstrated earlier this year, even modern tankers can get into trouble.
— (Tankers 3 32 sec "There was, as a matter of fact … there to help them.")
As flow through the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline declines, so does tanker traffic in and out of the sound. Jones says currently five or six tankers go through every week, carrying between 350,000 and 1.3-million barrels of oil each. That’s between 14-million and 55-million gallons in each tanker load.