Two maritime unions whose members escort oil tankers out of Alaska’s Prince William Sound are up in arms over an oil pipeline company’s plan to bring in a Louisiana firm to guide fully loaded tankers.
The proposed new contractor, they contend, could put at risk the environment of Prince William Sound, and the state’s economy.
The International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots and the Inlandboatmen’s Union have launched a television advertising campaign to pressure Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. to keep Florida-based Crowley Maritime on the job.
While the contract isn’t signed yet, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. says that Edison Chouest Offshore, based in Cut Off, Louisiana, will bring the required expertise and meet requirements for 20 percent Alaska hire.
Edison Chouest, according to Alyeska, competed rigorously during bidding on the contract, which has been held by Crowley Maritime for 25 years. Crowley’s contract ends in June 2018, and Alyeska has said it expects to finalize its decision about its maritime partners early this summer.
Crowley Maritime has a 25-year record of keeping Prince William Sound safe, the unions say. The company’s employees, in fact, wear a patch on their clothing displaying the words “Guardians of Prince William Sound.”
Donna Schantz, executive director of the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council, established in the wake of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster, says the council will do what it can to hold the new contractor to the highest standards. “The council hopes to verify that the new crews are trained and qualified before Edison Chouest takes over,” she said.
Edison Chouest is best known in Alaska as the Louisiana shipbuilder of the icebreaker anchor handling tug supply vessel Aiviq that lost its tow, Royal Dutch Shell’s oil drill rig Kulluk, during a December 2012 storm off Kodiak Island. The US Coast Guard later issued a scathing report critical of Shell and its contractors for negligence and mismanagement in the grounding of the Kulluk.