An open water oil spill response barge, being pulled by one of the Alyeska/SERVS tugs, not visible in the photo, is flanked by two local fishing vessels pulling boom and skimmers. Photo courtesy of PWSRCAC

Oil spill prevention and response training, an annual event hosted by the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council (PWSRCAC), was the highlight of a tour during the first week of May offered to residents of Valdez.

The council had previously offered similar training tours in Cordova, Homer, Seward and Whittier, to help those residing in these communities learn the importance of the training for local fishermen contracted by the Ship Escort Response Vessel System (SERVS) — so they can effectively respond in the event of an oil spill from a Prince William Sound tanker or at the Valdez Marine Terminal.

SERVS is Alyeska Pipeline Service Company’s oil spill removal organization, which coordinates these exercises in multiple Southcentral Alaska communities, including Valdez.

On this latest occasion, narrators from both the council and Alyeska were on board the Stan Stephens Glacier and Wildlife Cruises vessel on the afternoon of May 3 to describe the activities the SERVS fishermen were engaged in so locals could better understand the training.

Alyeska’s contracted fishing fleet is the backbone of their oil spill response system, PWSRCAC officials said.

“It is essential to the system operating as it was designed to do and part of what makes the Prince William Sound system world-class,” the council said in a statement issued following the cruise. “These contracted vessels and their crews help ensure the most comprehensive response measures are in place for both open water and nearshore resources. A major lesson of the Exxon Valdez spill was that incorporating local mariners into the spill response system helps ensure a quick, efficient and effective response.”


Since the inception of SERVS in the wake of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster, the council has been highly supportive of local fishermen and mariners being trained annually with the best available technology to prepare for oil spills. Valdez mariners have the most intimate knowledge of, and connection to, the waters in and around Valdez, the council said. Their involvement would help protect the most sensitive areas — such as hatcheries and spawning streams — from spilled oil, according to the council.

The infamous spill on March 24, 1989 occurred when the oil supertanker Exxon Valdez, owned by Exxon Shipping Company, was bound for Long Beach, California when it struck Bligh Reed 1.5 miles west of Tatitlek, Alaska at 12:04 a.m., ultimately spilling 10.8 million gallons of crude oil over the next few days.  The spill had a devastating impact on habitat for salmon, sea otters, seals and seabirds, and is considered the second largest oil spill in history in U.S. waters, after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.