Kodiak fishing vessel crews train for oil spill response

Ropes, neoprene survival suits, and wooden boards used in the damage control class. (Photo by Kayla Desroches / KMXT)

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

In September, a number of fishing vessels responded to a spill at the Valdez Marine Terminal.

The boats were part of the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company’s Vessel of Opportunity Program, which hires and trains crews to do cleanup in the case of an oil spill in Prince William Sound.

About 50 vessels in Kodiak are part of the program. Participants went through training this week, and it wraps up today.

KMXT dropped by St. Paul Harbor to check it out.


Students use wooden boards, scraps of a neoprene survival suit, and hammers to stop a simulated leak.

Patty O’Donnel from Valdez is one of the instructors of this damage control unit.

“And it’s gotta whole different bunch of scenarios here where the rudder dropped out and there’s holes right here, so they’ve got to plug the hole.”

He and a small group of fishermen in hard hats stand around a collection of odds and ends in boxes and buckets. O’Donnel says these are things a fisherman should have on hand before a leak.

“This way you’re not running all over the boat, looking for rope, looking for different stuff here, wedges, plugs, they already have it all together in a little kit, so they’re ready to go.”

This is just one of the stations set up along the harbor downtown. Other workshops cover how to operate oil response equipment or even knot tying.

Jane Eisemann is a local coordinator with Aleyska’s Ship Escort/Response Vessel System or SERVS, which was established soon after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. She says local vessels get paid for a year-long contract and for the training.

“They have to check in with us every week to let us know whether they are available within 24 hours to respond to a spill. That means their boats have to fueled up, ready with groceries and a crew.”

Vessels in other communities sign contracts to respond within 6 hours or one hour. Alyeska Communications Manager Kate Dugan says Kodiak participants are further removed, and would probably be needed in the case of a larger incident.

“If we decide that we need all of our resources, we would call Kodiak. Obviously, for incidences that are for Prince William Sound and Valdez where we have enough vessels nearby, we wouldn’t call Kodiak, but in a worst-case scenario, we would call them out.”

Aleyska contracts with a number of boats in the Vessel of Opportunity Program, including ones out of Cordova, Whittier, Homer, and Seward.

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