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SHIP NAME: Arco Anchorage KEY: NUM. ENTRIES: 4
source OSCH
type A
volume 5690B
material North Slope crude
dead 0

At 1626 on December 21, 1985 the Tank Vessel ARCO Anchorage ran aground while anchoring in Port Angeles Harbor, Washington. The vessel was carrying 814,000 barrels of Alaska North Slope Crude Oil en route from Valdez, Alaska to the Cherry Point Refinery in Bellingham, Washington. Weather conditions at the time of the incident were calm with a visibility of 3 miles. The vessel was holed in two cargo tanks resulting in the loss of 5690 barrels of oil into Port Angeles Harbor. Internal transfer of cargo from the holed tanks stopped the discharge of oil into the water by 2052, December 21. The ARCO Anchorage remained aground until 0244, December 22 when it was refloated and moved to deeper anchorage within Port Angeles Harbor. Through discussions with the Canadian Coast Guard it was decided that invocation of the joint U.S. Canadian response plan (CANUSPAC) was not necessary, but that close contact would be maintained. An ARCO spill response team was activated from Long Beach, California. Under the influence of wind and tides, the oil was carried to the west almost to Neah Bay and to the east to Dungeness Spit. No impacts were observed in Canada from this incident. Cleanup activities were suspended on April 7, 1986.

Alaska North Slope Crude Oil is a medium weight oil with an API gravity of 26.5 and a pour point of 0 degrees F. Shortly after the grounding, released oil was observed bubbling from under the port side of the vessel in the vicinity of the No. 4 and 5 tanks. Due to light wind conditions and calm seas, the movement of oil was primarily directed by tidal current influences. Movement of oil within the harbor was generally in a clockwise direction. Oil was carried out of the harbor around the end of Ediz Hook as well as to the east from the vessel itself. Most of the oil that left Port Angeles Harbor was carried to the east and west along the ten fathom contour. Of the 5,700 barrels of oil spilled, an estimated 3,126 barrels were recovered.

source UNKNOWN
type A
dead 0


On the afternoon of Dec. 21, 1985, the Arco Anchorage, en route from Valdez to a refinery just outside Puget Sound with 34 million gallons of North Slope crude oil, pulled into Port Angeles harbor to wait its turn at the refinery dock. The weather was overcast with light winds, the sea flat. As required, a local pilot, Ray Leson, had come aboard at 3:19 p.m. to guide the ship through the inland waters.

At 4:02 p.m., Leson turned the ship sharply to the right, at too high speed into too shallow water, according to a review by the Washington Department of Ecology. At 4:25 p.m., the Arco Anchorage struck hard bottom, probably a rock, and split open two of its tanks. About 239,000 gallons of oil spilled.

It was later revealed that Leson, 65, had been involved in nine reportable incidents since 1981 while piloting ships, including three groundings. The Coast Guard punished him for this fourth grounding by suspending his license for two months.

Machines fail, and so do men. In most shipwrecks, a variety of circumstances come together to produce disaster, making it impossible to fix blame clearly. Investigators in the 1985 grounding of the 853 foot Arco Anchorage in Port Angeles, Wash., had no such problem. They were able to lay that spill at the feet of one man.

Capt Raymond Laurence Leson had sailed as a merchant officer for 35 years before becoming a pilot in 1977, but had little experience with large vessels, "particularly ones anywhere close to the size of the Arco Anchorage," wrote Capt. Kirk Greiner, a retired Coast Guard captain, formerly captain of the Port of Portland, who was hired by the Washington state Department of Ecology to determine the cause of the accident.

Harbor pilots are specially licensed captains who, for safety reasons, take over command of ships moving from ocean to inland water on the theory that they know the local waters and what lies hidden beneath better than mariners who are just passing through.

On Dec. 21, 1985, the Arco Anchorage was finishing a run from Valdez to a refinery at Cherry Point, at the entrance to Puget Sound. As the ship moved through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Leson came aboard and took command. His plan was to park the huge tanker, nearly as long as three football fields, off Ediz Hook, a witch's finger of land that juts out from the mainland and hooks around, forming a protected cove.

At 4:23 p.m., after checking navigation charts, Capt. Robert Sutherland, the master of the Arco Anchorage, checked the ship's position and asked Leson if he was satisfied with where they were. Leson said yes.

The draft of the Anchorage the distance its hull extended down into the water was 50 feet, 9.6 inches. The depth of the water where Leson chose to park her was "slightly over 50 feet," but not over enough. At 4:45 p.m. the Arco Anchorage struck bottom, "undoubtedly a rock," Greiner concluded. The blow ruptured two tanks and she began spilling what eventually amounted to 239,000 gallons of oil.

Bad luck seemed to dog ships piloted by Ray Leson, as investigators later discovered. In 1981 a freighter he was piloting grounded when it missed the channel by 40 feet. In 1982 a ship piloted by him approached a dock at excessive speed and hit it. In 1983 a ship ran aground "apparently because he did not allow sufficiently for leeway for the current."

A month later, he grounded a ship in the Shohomish River entrance. He got a letter of reprimand from the Pilot Commission for that one. In 1984, he struck some pilings in Blair Waterway, in Tacoma, Wash., while backing to turn the vessel. A second reprimand was issued.

"In the opinion of the writer, the cause of the grounding of the Arco Anchorage was the failure of the Federal pilot, Captain Leson, to safely navigate the vessel," Greiner concluded. The Coast Guard reached the same conclusion and charged Leson with negligence. "You're not supposed to park your ship (in shallow water)," said Coast Guard Capt. J.E. De Carteret at a press conference. "That's what they make charts for. That's why pilots are there." Leson got news of the charge while he was on the job, the Seattle PostIntelligencer reported, "as he prepared to pilot the tanker Mobile Meridian out to sea."

Washington officials seconded everyone else's conclusion about who was to blame for the spill by fining Leson $60,000 for polluting the environment, making him the first individual in state history to be so fined. A similar fine was levied against Arco. The fines were later reduced to $30,000. Leson was set to go to trial before an administrative judge with the maximum punishment loss of his pilot's license, when the Coast Guard prosecutor announced a plea bargain. The deal was Leson would plead no contest to negligence and his accident record would not be introduced at his sentencing.

In April 1986, the judge suspended Leson's license for two months, noting that the grounding "was a onetime event," rather than a pattern of negligence. "It was a momentary lapse on the part of Leson," the judge said. "I am entering this order to make this man aware he has to be on his toes at all times."

After the sentencing, Leson told reporters, "I regret the ecological damage, but the fish and the birds will come back. . . . Being a pilot is a lonely job. You're the only one on the ship. . ."

Seattle got lucky. Unpredictable wind and current drove oil from the Arco Anchorage, the worst tanker spill in Washington history, west toward the Pacific Ocean instead of east, toward Puget Sound. Much of the glop got trapped in Ediz Hook, where it fouled beaches and killed clams and birds, but where it sat still long enough for skimmers to pick up more than they usually are able to recover, according to Ron Holcomb of the Washington Department of Ecology.

Washington law requires that spillers pay for the wildlife they kill. The state billed Arco for $32,930, which included 229 dead whitewinged scoters at $5.53 each, four mallards at $9.45 each and a canvasback duck at $11.03. Arco also bought 12,468 pounds of clams ranging from $1.39 to $2.21 a pound. Prices were determined by estimating how much it would cost to dig one up to eat, even if the species was not normally taken for food. "In retrospect, it was not appropriate," said Lew Kittle, the onscene coordinator for the Ecology Department. Kittle said Washington is working on a new table of values, one that will include nonconsumption worth as well.

Cleanup of the Anchorage spill began almost immediately and took about four months. It was run by Arco with Coast Guard and state oversight. "I was very happy with how Arco handled themselves," Kittle said. "They took full responsibility for their action. We mustered an oil spill cleanup plan . . . they worked with us." One thing that proved valuable, Kittle said, was a joint spill response exercise a year earlier that had included Arco, the state and the Coast Guard. The responsible people got to know each other during the exercise so, when the real thing happened, they were able to work smoothly together. It all cost Arco $13.1 million, said Robert Levine, the company's onscene coordinator: $9.1 million for the actual cleanup and $4 million to settle damage claims, including the $30,000 fine, $32,930 for the dead wildlife, and $285,000 reimbursement for state investigations, damage assessment studies, monitoring and cleanup.

Kittle said Ediz Hook is now, 31|2 years later, clean. How clean? One hundred parts of oil per million is the standard. "You can't see it."

source ERC
type A
volume 643 mt
material crude

Grounding. Pilot fined USD 30,000.

source CTX
type A
volume 5690B
material North Slope crude
dead 0

Cherry Point was not ready for ship, so anchored under pilot at Pt Angeles while waiting. Washington Dept of Ecology called it pilot error, excessive speed. Pilot, Leson, had a checquered record. USCG also charged Leson with negligence in part because spot where he anchored was too shallow for 50.75 foot draft. Seattle Times says ship was going 2 knots when it hit. In the end the pilot's license was suspended for a month.

Need to know location, depth of penetration.

Dickesn says 189,000 gallons spilled.