The Maritime Operations program reviews port organization, operations, incidents, and the adequacy and maintenance of the vessel traffic system. Major program components include participation with the Valdez Marine Safety Committee, monitoring changes to the escort system, reviewing Best Available Technology documents for the escort system and the Vessel Emergency Response Plan, and supporting the maintenance of the NOAA weather stations.
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Projects in This Program
Tanker Escort System
Prince William Sound’s world-class tanker escort system consists of high-powered tugs accompanying each laden tanker through Prince William Sound. The current escort system safeguards against oil spills caused by navigational errors, extreme weather, and human or organizational errors. It is the best method of preventing spills.
The Ice Detection project included installation of radar systems at Reef Island to serve as a source of real-time information about the ice conditions in the Prince William Sound tanker lanes.
Maritime firefighting skills are essential to the fire departments of Prince William Sound. Port Valdez is home to the Valdez Marine Terminal, where crude oil tankers arrive daily, as well as a small boat harbor that is home to fishing vessels that are an integral part of oil spill response operations. Vessel fires pose a significant threat, not only to people, but also to the environment.
Places of Refuge
Prince William Sound has some of the most environmentally sensitive coastal areas and shoreline habitats in Alaska. The objective of this project was to meet with primary stakeholders to discuss, pre-identify, and reach consensus on potential places of safe refuge for leaking or disabled vessels in Prince William Sound. This project provided invaluable information and guidance for decision-makers who may be faced with a crisis involving a disabled vessel.
The effect of tankers and their escort tugs transiting Prince William Sound on the underwater marine environment is largely unknown. It is unknown what research, if any, has been done on stress related problems on marine mammals from vessel traffic.
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