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SHIP NAME: Exxon Valdez KEY: NUM. ENTRIES: 12
source LMIU
type C
volume Y
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Grounded on Bligh Reef, Prince William Sound, 22 miles S of Valdez, 24 Mar 1989 Holed. Massive oil spill, causing major pollution. Refloated 05 Apr after transferring most cargo. Taken in tow 23 Jun. Towed into San Diego 30 Jul. Repaired. Returned to service.


source Jon Zinke; Keesal, Young and Logan LLP
type A
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In late June [2008], the United States Supreme Court issued a complex decision on the recovery of punitive damages under US general maritime law in the Exxon Valdez oil spill case. Almost 20 years ago, the tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground and spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Exxon paid clean up costs of $2.1 billion, a fine of $25 million, restitution of $100 million, and agreed natural resource restoration costs of at least $900 million. It also faced liability for pecuniary losses of $507.5 million as found by the trial court plus punitive damages.

The trial court judge instructed the jury that a corporation is responsible for the reckless acts of employees who acted in a management capacity within the scope of their employment. Then the jury awarded damages against Exxon for the staggering amount of $5 billion. Nor surprisingly, Exxon appealed the punitive damages award, which the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit eventually reduced to $2.5 billion.

The Supreme Court agreed to review the case and addressed three important questions. First, the eight justices who heard the case split evenly on the issue of whether a ship owner may be held liable for punitive damages without acquiescence in the actions of its employees. Accordingly, no definitive ruling on the issue could be rendered, and the decision of the Court of Appeals which allowed for such derivative liability was left undisturbed. The lower Courts of Appeals in the U.S. are split on this issue, so the issue will not be finally resolved until the Supreme Court addresses it in another case.

Second, the Supreme Court rejected Exxon's argument that the Clean Water Act implicitly barred punitive damages.

Third, after surveying the history of punitive damages, and with an aim of making punitive damages awards more predictable, the Supreme Court further reduced punitive damages to $507.5 million, an amount equal to the total compensatory damages. Observing studies showing that the median ratio for punitive damages awards in the U.S. compared to compensatory damages is less than 1:1, the Supreme Court adopted a ratio of 1:1 as the upper limit for punitve damages under general maritime law in a case of recklessness bearingno earmarks of exceptional blameworthiness.


source ITOPF
type A
volume 37000T
material
dead 0
link http://www.itopf.com/casehistories.html#exxonvaldez

The Exxon Valdez grounded on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska, on 24th March, 1989. About 37,000 tonnes of Alaska North Slope crude escaped into the Sound and spread widely. There was some limited dispersant spraying and an experimental in situ burn trial during the early stages of the spill but at-sea response concentrated on containment and recovery. Despite the utilisation of a massive number of vessels, booms and skimmers, only around 5% of the original spill volume was recovered from the sea surface. The oil subsequently affected a variety of shores, mainly rock and cobble, to varying degrees over an estimated 1,800 kms.

This spill attracted an enormous amount of media attention because it was the largest spill to date in U.S. waters (though well down the scale in world terms). Moreover, it happened in a splendidly scenic wilderness area with important fisheries and attractive wildlife such as sea otters and bald eagles. Consequently the response was the biggest and most expensive in oil spill history, with over 10,000 workers being employed at the height of the clean-up operations, many of them in shoreline clean-up, often in remote areas.

Shoreline clean-up techniques included high pressure hot water washing, which was carried out on a scale never attempted previously or subsequently. This seems to have delayed recovery of intertidal communities in some areas, although recovery on over 70% of oiled shorelines was progressing well in 1990. There were also some relatively large scale bioremediation trials that gave mixed results. About 1,000 sea otters are known to have died, and over 35,000 dead birds were retrieved. There were particular efforts to protect fisheries, for example with booming of salmon hatcheries. There is no good evidence of long-term damage to wildlife and fish populations.


source AK
type L
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link http://www.evostc.state.ak.us/facts/details.cfm

This is the best short summary of the events leading up to the grounding. It is based on the Final Report, Alaska Oil Spill Commission, Published Feb 1990 by the State of Alaska. The full report apparently was never put on the web.

2009-08 updated this link.


source KEEBLE
type D
volume
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dead 0
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Keeble pages 38-43 places a lot of emphasis on the helmsman's supposed failure/slowness to execute the right rudder command that would have taken them west of Bligh Reef. If this were the major problem, then this would be a conning error rather a navigation error. But it is clear from all the other sources, that the other people on the bridge were quite surprised to see Blight Reef light broad on the starboard side. The ship grounded on the "wrong" side of the reef which would have taken an immense steering error. The OOW claimed he ordered the turn at 2356, but the course recorder shows no turn until 0001. The attempt to blame the helmsman smells a little of pushing the blame down the line as far as possible.


source OSCH
type C
volume 240500B
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On March 24, 1989, the tanker Exxon Valdez, en route from Valdez, Alaska to Los Angeles, California, ran aground on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska. The vessel was traveling outside normal shipping lanes in an attempt to avoid ice. Within six hours of the grounding, the Exxon Valdez spilled approximately 10.9 million gallons of its 53 million gallon cargo of Prudhoe Bay Crude. Eight of the eleven tanks on board were damaged. The oil would eventually impact over 1,100 miles of non-continuous coastline in Alaska, making the Exxon Valdez the largest oil spill to date in U.S. waters. The response to the Exxon Valdez involved more personnel and equipment over a longer period of time than did any other spill in U.S. history. Logistical problems in providing fuel, meals, berthing, response equipment, waste management and other resources were one of the largest challenges to response management. At the height of the response, more than 11,000 personnel, 1,400 vessels and 85 aircraft were involved in the cleanup. Shoreline cleanup began in April of 1989 and continued until September of 1989 for the first year of the response. The response effort continued in 1990 and 1991 with cleanup in the summer months, and limited shoreline monitoring in the winter months. Fate and effects monitoring by state and Federal agencies are ongoing.

Prudhoe Bay crude oil has an API gravity of 27.0, and a pour point of 0 degrees C. The bulk of the oil spilled from the Exxon Valdez was released within 6 hours of the ship's grounding. The general trend of the oil was south and west from the point of origin. For the first few days after the spill, most of the oil was in a large concentrated patch near Bligh Island. On March 26, a storm, which generated winds of over 70 mph in Prince William Sound, weathered much of the oil, changing it into mousse and tarballs, and distributed it over a large area. By March 30, the oil extended 90 miles from the spill site. Ultimately, oil would extend more than 500 miles from Bligh reef, oiling shorelines in Prince William Sound, the Kenai peninsula, the Alaskan peninsula and Kodiak island. Oil impacts in the Prince William Sound region were the most severe. In addition to the storm of March 26, the spill occurred at a time of year when the spring tidal fluctuations were nearly 18 feet. This tended to deposit the oil onto shorelines above the normal zone of wave action. The diversity in shoreline types in the affected areas led to varied oiling conditions. In some cases, oil was present on sheer rock faces making access and cleanup difficult, or rocky beaches with grain size anywhere from coarse sand to boulders, where the oil could percolate to a sub-surface level. The spill affected both sheltered and exposed (to high wave/weather action) shorelines. Once oil landed on a shoreline it could be floated off at the next high tide, carried to and deposited in a different location, making the tracking of oil migration and shoreline impact very difficult. This migration ended by mid-summer 1989, and the remaining cleanup dealt with oiled shorelines, rather than oil in the water. Cleanup operations continued during the summer months of 1990 and 1991. By 1990, surface oil, where it existed, had become significantly weathered. Sub-surface oil, on the other hand, was in many cases much less weathered and still in a liquid state. The liquid sub-surface oil could give off a sheen when disturbed. Cleanup in 1991 concentrated on the remaining reduced quantities of surface and sub-surface oil.


source CEDRE
type L
volume 40000T
material
dead
link http://www.le-cedre.fr/en/spill/exxon_va/exxon_valdez.php


source Devanney, Visit to Exxon Valdez in drydock in San Diego, 1990
type A
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Visit to Valdez was extremely interesting. My primary purpose was to find out how the ship was able to leak 40,000 M3 from damage which reportedly was confined to the flat bottom. According to our hydrostatic analyses, the outflow should have been less than one-fourth this amount. My guide was Phil Myers, the senior Exxon superintendent. Myers and I got along well and, while he waited for me to ask the questions, I had the impression he was not the least bit evasive in his answers. The ship apparently hit two high points in the ledge, one near the centerline, and one just outboard of the starboard longitudinal bulkhead. The damage extended all the way back to 5C (the aftmost center tank). Fortunately at that point, the ship slewed to starboard carrying the damage from the fives outboard thereby missing the pump room and the engine room. They were working on the center tank damage first and had cut a tunnel from the bow down the middle out of which they pulled the steel and into which the replacement modules were skidded. The replacement modules were approximately 100 tons each. They extended 16 feet (4.9 m) above the baseline. Total steel work was 3500 tons, of which 2500 tons were in the modules. The yard had given them a fixed price quote of $3000 per ton for the modules, TandM for removing the damaged steel. Myers figured the yard was running about 40 man-hours per ton of steel removed which would put the total price of the 2500 tons at about ten million dollars with the individually fitted steel higher. This is a free flow ship, so piping replacement was a relatively small item. This probably saved Exxon two or three million dollars.

Fortunately, they had not yet done much in the wing tanks. They had to get some steel back in before they could pull any more out, so the idea is to do the centers first moving forward and then do the wings. Thus, I was able to see quite a bit of the damage in the starboard tanks. The highest uplift of the bottom was about 2 meters, and almost all the damage was confined to the bottom 3 meters although there were a few places where it went up to 4 plus. In general, I was surprised that the ripping had been as clean as it was. The shell was a disaster and the bottom stiffeners were spaghetti but the webs rarely showed much damage above the 2.5 meter level. You could clearly see the high points in the reef in the bottom outline of the webs. The steel was in near-perfect condition, like new. However, in many areas the stiffener web had separated from the bottom shell. Where this had happened, the bottom edge of the web looked just like it had come from the plate yard. Upon closer inspection, the welding was atrociously bad. Not only was the bead very thin but there was very little penetration on the bottom shell and none on the web. It looked like a continuous tack weld. When Myers saw my expression, he voluntered that Exxon was instituting much stricter weld inspection procedures for the repair work. The poor welding may have helped localize the damage. There was no way you were going to transmit large forces thru those welds.

Myers confirmed that all the "initial" damage had been confined to the flat bottom. When I asked him what he meant by "initial", he said the the sideshell just above the bilge keel had been accordioned by "the rocking". Indeed the turn of the bilge looked like a fat lady sitting on a bar stool. When I asked what had caused this, Myers pointed out that the ship had grounded an hour or two before high tide. At that point, she was grounded only from the centerline to starboard; the port tanks remained intact and buoyant. When the tide went out the ship listed to port; when the tide came back in she attempted to list to starboard, squashing the lower starboard corner. When I asked how much tide, I had my explanation for the amount spilled. Myers said "ten to 12 feet". If you are going to ground at high tide i and then lose 3 meters plus in your outside water column, you are going to have a hydrostatic outflow of the original hydrostatic head plus the tide. Others at the meeting confirmed that essentially all of the outflow took place in the first tidal cycle. Myers confirmed that, if the ship had come off the ledge, she would have sunk due to the loss of both the forepeak and the starboard permanent ballast tanks.


source Embiricos, The Quest for the Environmental Ship
type D
volume 268000B
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Embiricos, claims speed "about 12 knots". Says "The ship rose 4 feet above her normal draught and stayed there stranded". Says USCG said that, if the ship had had an 18 foot (5.5 m) double bottom, it would not have been penetrated. But no sources are given. Has an Exxon drawing of the damage which shows 16 ft high replacement blocks (A-2 units) extending back to the forward webframe in 5C in the center tanks and back to midway in 3S in the wing tanks.


source OIL_III
type D
volume 10.9MMG
material
dead 0
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Claims 37,000 tons spilled within six hours of the grounding.

NRC cites following numbers for direct kills: 900 bald eagles, about 250,000 sea birds, 2,800 otters, 300 harbor seal. See page 14 for more details.


source NTSB, Grounding of the U.S. Tankship Exxon Valdez
type D
volume 258000B
material
dead 0
link

This is the official NTSB report on the casualty, NTIS PB90-916405, published in July, 1990. Has a great deal of valuable information, including spillage by tank. The Forepeak tank, all 5 center tanks, and all the starboard wing tanks, other than aftmost slop tank were breached.

The report also includes estimates of damage height by tank. According to the NTSB, damage was no higher than 3.3 m in all the cargo tanks. 4.6 m in 2S (ballast). On this basis, NTSB concludes a B/15 double bottom (3.38 m) would have prevented a spill. This is a stretch on several grounds.

  1. The NTSB estimates of the highest damage points in the cargo tanks look low. They don't match Devanney's qualitative notes nor Exxon's decision to use a module height of over 5 m throughout the ship. The NTSB fails to explain how 2S (a ballast tank) could have a damage height of 4.6 m, while 1S has a damage height of 3.3 m.
  2. The NTSB neglects to point out that, if the ship were a double hull, 2S with a damage height of 4.6 m according to the NTSB would have been a cargo tank.
  3. The double bottom height of 3.38 m posited by NTSB does not exist. The rule is B/15 or 2 meters which ever is smaller. If the Valdez were a double hull, she would have had a double bottom height of 2 m.
The report rejects the bad steering theory and concludes that the proximate cause was a navigation error on the part of the 3rd Mate. The report concludes that the Mate was badly fatigued due to excessive workload. The report puts a great deal of emphasis on a study of Hazelwood's voice tranmissions concluding that he was probably impaired, and in any event should have been on the bridge both by Exxon policy and USCG rules. The reports faults the USCG for a poorly maintained and poorly operated VTS.


source CTX
type C
volume 41000 KL
material
dead 0
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ITOPF puts this spill at 37000T. Environmental Report for TAPS Right or Way Renewal says 257,143B. Exxon and NTSB says 258,000 barrels. Crew was 20, far too few to properly man a VLCC. The Mate's screw up would be much more difficult, now that we have GPS and ECDIS.

Obviously, the Master should have been on the bridge, both by rule and common sense. He left a tired 3rd mate with the tricky task of manuevering between the ice and Bligh Reef at night. Whether or not Hazelwood was drunk, he is clearly at fault, as is Exxon for manning a VLCC with a ridiculously small crew.

After the grounding the crew did nothing, other than some strange engine maneuvers by the Captain in an apparent attempt to get the ship off the reef (which probably would have resulted in the ship sinking). In fact, what they should have done is tied to to seal off the breached cargo tanks, develop a vacuum in the top of those tanks, which would have kept most of the oil on-board. CTX has done a study which indicates that successfully sealing the tanks would have kept two-thirds of the oil on-board.

All parties agree that almost all the oil was spilled in the first half tidal cycle. Exxon calculated that 22,000 m3 was spilled in 3.75 hours. The Chief Mate testified that they lost about 100,000 barrels in less than half an hour. This is unlikely since the tide was still coming in. He is probably confusing flow out of cargo tanks with net loss. Most of the initial outflow from the cargo tanks would have been into the empty Forepeak, 2S and 4S ballast tanks. At the end of the day, these three tanks captured about 15,000 m3 (97,000 barrels); but initially there would have been considerably more oil in these tanks, a portion of which was lost as the tide went out.

Ship was under VTC but VTC did nothing.

Ship was on "load program up" after dropping off pilot at 11:24. It appears that the speed on impact was about 12 or 13 knots. One argument for switching lanes rather than pushing slowly thru the ice was poor slow speed manuerverability. But they were so far off course, it is hard to argue that twin screw would have made a difference here. What is clear is that the damage extended over 240 m back into the hull, demostrating the futility of attempting to build a tanker with a bottom strong enough to make a difference in a major grounding.

In Cousin's appeal, both sides seems to have accepted that the speed on grounding was about 11 knots.

On top of the costs listed above, in 1994 an Alaskan jury awarded an additional 5.3 billion dollars in punitive damages. The district court instructed the jury that they could award vicarious punitive damages even if they found that all the recklessness was on the part of the vessel's master. Exxon appealed but this appeal was rejected in 2000 by an Alaskan appeals court. In 2001, the 9th Circuit court reduced the punitive damage to 4.5B, and then again to 2.5B in 2006, citing intervening Supreme Court decisions. Exxon appealed to the Supreme Court which agreed to review some of the points of argument. At this point, Exxon claims that it has already paid 3.4 billion in clean up costs, natural resource claims, fines and penalties. 2.5B in punitive damages would bring the total to just under 6 billion dollars.

On 2008-06-26 the Supreme Court ruled that punitive damages could be awarded but were limited by the amount of compensatory danages. This reduced the punitive damages to 507.5 million dollars. So in the end it looks like the total cost to Exxon was about 4 billion dollars, roughly $100 per liter.