Audience Returns to On-Water Spill Training in Seward

Apr 19, 2022 | Environmental, News, Oil & Gas

Seward Spill Training

Spectators observe spill response training on April 14, 2022, from a Major Marine Tours vessel.

Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the community could watch fishing vessels out of Seward train for oil spill response annually. After a hiatus, the spectacle resumed last week.

To Protect and SERVS

The Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council began the training observation tours in 2016, previously rotating through Whittier, Cordova, and Homer.

The council says the event keeps communities informed about oil spill prevention and response measures, especially those involving their local fishermen.

Former lieutenant governor Mead Treadwell attended the Seward tour. “I was around during the Exxon Valdez [oil spill] and around during the creation of the fisherman’s program,” he says. “Practice like this is important. It’s an impressive drill.”

Narrators from the council and Alyeska Pipeline Service Company described oil spill response resources and tactics.

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Participant Cindy Mans noted, “I’m actually really just encouraged by what I saw and absolutely the idea that the local people have the most invested if something goes wrong. Unfortunately, I view an oil spill as more of a ‘when’ instead of an ‘if.’ If we can keep it as small as possible and the least amount of impact, this is one of the pieces to make that happen.”

Another participant, age 10, said his favorite part was seeing the “giant orange boat,” the utility tug M/V Ross Chouest.

The local fishermen participating in the training are contracted by the Ship Escort/Response Vessel System (SERVS) to respond in the event of a Prince William Sound tanker or Valdez Marine Terminal oil spill. SERVS is Alyeska Pipeline’s oil spill removal organization and coordinates annual spill response exercises in multiple Southcentral Alaska communities.

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

Seward city clerk Brenda Ballou says, “I’ve been aware of the SERVS training for a long time, but never had the opportunity to actually take part in it or see it. I think it’s fantastic, everybody working together. It really is a service for the whole community.”

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

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