Oct 31, 2002
Kenai incident reminds of need to address response gap
By John Devens, PhD
Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council
In early October, the Prince William Sound escort system proved itself again.
When the tanker Kenai experienced engine problems
at Hinchinbrook Entrance and called for assistance,
Alyeska tugs promptly hooked up
and conducted the ship to a safe anchorage for repairs.
The captain of the Kenai made the right call,
and Alyeska took the right measures.
But this successful outcome was somewhat a matter of luck:
the weather was mild, with 14-mph winds and 2-foot waves.
In weather that developed a few hours later,
the outcome might have been different.
The fact is, our escort and response system suffers
from a dangerous gap in capability.
Tankers legally sail from Valdez in weather so severe
that it would be impossible to contain or clean up spilled oil.
And there is some doubt that the kind of aid the Kenai received would be possible in bad weather.