APSC completes marine transition from Crowley to Edison Chouest
The transition of marine services for the Valdez Marine Terminal from Crowley Marine Corp. to Edison Chouest Offshore were completed on schedule on July 1, Michelle Egan, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. corporate communications director, has told Petroleum News.
“At midnight on July 1 we released the last Crowley vessel, so that all of the vessels in the system are now operated by Chouest,” Egan said.
As the last of the Crowley vessels departed Valdez the new Edison Chouest tugs put on a water show, in recognition of the service that the Crowley fleet has provided.
“Those mariners have been really impressive over the years,” Egan said.
Tanker damagedA problem did occur on June 27 when one of the new tugs, the Ingot, bumped into the tanker Florida when the tug was coming alongside the tanker to assist with the docking at a berth. There was a hard landing, with metal-to-metal contact, causing a dent about 20 inches long, six inches wide and three inches deep in the tanker’s hull, Egan said. However, the Florida was able to depart on June 28, after an inspection by the American Bureau of Shipping and clearance by the U.S. Coast Guard, Egan said.
Although tugs and tankers come into contact and scrapes can occur, Alyeska is concerned about the scale and location of this particular damage. Egan said that the company immediately launched an investigation and has ruled out mechanical issues or vessel design as contributing factors. There have been meetings between the tug captain, the marine pilot and the tanker master, with a resulting agreement over increased levels of communication during the docking an undocking of tankers, and over the need to reduce the speeds of both tankers and tugs as they come alongside, Egan said.
The marine servicesAlyeska’s Ship Escort/Response Vessel System, known as SERVS, manages the marine services, which provide tug assistance for tankers berthing at the Valdez Marine Terminal, while also supporting oil spill prevention and contingency plans for the terminal and the tanker operations. As part of the spill prevention program, tugs escort tankers through the Valdez Narrows at the entrance to Port Valdez, and across Prince William Sound between Port Valdez and the Gulf of Alaska.
The marine transition results from a decision by Alyeska, operator of the trans-Alaska pipeline and the marine terminal, to put the contract for the marine services to competitive bid - in August 2016 Alyeska announced that it was awarding the contract to Edison Chouest.
A huge projectThe transition has been a huge, complex project: Edison Chouest built five new tugs, purpose designed for escorting tankers; four general purpose tugs; and four new barges, purpose built for oil spill response. The new oil spill response barges were specifically designed for use in Valdez and are equipped with new state-of-the-art oil skimmers. The project has required training for the Edison Chouest crews, and demonstrations that the new vessels can perform their required tasks in the challenging sea conditions of Prince William Sound and the Port of Valdez.
The introduction of new oil spill prevention and response equipment and vessels has necessitated changes to the oil spill contingency plans, both for the marine terminal and for the tanker operations. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has to approve the plans. Both of the contingency plans are in hand, and all of the training, exercises and demonstrations required to date have been completed, Egan said. ADEC has cleared all essential vessels for use, she said.
As is normal with the marine services, there will be continuing training and demonstrations, Egan said.
Improved efficiencyImproved efficiency
In addition to being designed specifically for use in support of the Valdez tanker operations, the vessels have consistent designs, a factor that enables improved operational efficiency. And the response barges have been designed with decks almost clear of equipment and piping, and with command modules elevated for maximum visibility of the barge operations.
The new vessels started arriving in Valdez in March. Since then, there have been more than 100 deployments and demonstrations in Prince William Sound, including the docking and undocking of tankers, Egan said. Incoming crews of experienced mariners have completed more than 35,000 training hours in total and have demonstrated their capabilities in Prince William Sound operation and with Crowley mariners, she said.
“I think we’re just happy to be celebrating this transition,” Egan said. “The system is better than it’s ever been.”
- ALAN BAILEY