VALDEZ, Alaska â€” The 15 day response and clean up of leaking containers aboard the BBC Arizona concluded Friday and the Coast Guard captain of the port for Prince William Sound rescinded the captain of the port order against the BBC Arizona allowing the ship to depart Port Valdez.
“On Friday afternoon, Coast Guard personnel inspected the ship and its cargo to verify all requirements of the captain of the port order were met,” said Cmdr. Benjamin Hawkins, captain of the port for Prince William Sound. “Due to the diligence and collaborative efforts of all those involved in the response, I was satisfied that the ship did not pose a safety or environmental hazard and rescinded the captain of the port order, allowing the ship’s departure Friday evening.”
The BBC Arizona reached the Gulf of Alaska early Saturday morning en route for Mazatlan, Mexico.
Demobilization of response personnel and equipment began Saturday. More than 50 personnel from the Coast Guard, state of Alaska, City of Valdez, Gallagher Marine Systems, LLC, Emerald Alaska Inc., Alaska Chadux, North Star Terminal and Stevedore Company, and several marine survey companies were involved throughout the incident. Unified command operations are anticipated to conclude Sunday.
“This has been a complex mitigation response, requiring substantial collaboration and team work to ensure no environmental impact or injuries occurred,” said Chris Graff, west coast response services director for Gallagher Marine Systems, LLC and the ship’s representative on the unified command. “On behalf of the owners of the BBC Arizona, Gallagher Marine Systems LLC would like to thank all those involved in the response, as well as the City of Valdez for their hospitality.”
Coast Guard officials issued the BBC Arizona’s owner a federal notice of violation for failure to notify about hazardous conditions aboard the ship, which carries a $5,000 fine.
On Thursday and Friday, the last of the ship’s oil filled containers were moved to the shoreside decontamination site, emptied, cleaned, and returned to the ship. Emerald Alaska Inc. also concluded clean-up and decontamination of the BBC Arizona’s deck.
Empty oil bladders, or “flexi-tanks”, were pressure washed and repackaged into DOT approved heavy lift bags designed specifically to provide containment. Once packaged, the heavy lift bags were placed into clean, lined containers and stored for further investigation.
“The City of Valdez continues to be impressed with the professionalism and efforts of all agencies and organizations involved in this case, including North Star Terminal and Stevedore Company,” said Diane Kinney, ports and harbor director for the Port of Valdez and the City’s representative on the unified command. “Utilizing incident command system processes and expertise, the unified command developed a continuously evolving plan to safely remove, empty, and clean the leaking containers.”
Eight frac tanks, filled with a total of 130,489 gallons of non-contaminated transformer oil removed from the ship’s containers, remain at the Valdez Container Terminal. Field tests confirmed no presence of PCBs, a hazardous substance sometimes associated with transformer oil.
Since the non-contaminated oil is a commodity, the product’s owner will sell it to the highest bidder in accordance with U.S. Customs and Border Protection regulations. A time frame for the sale will follow state of Alaska’s temporary storage requirement and any additional rules imposed by the Port of Valdez. Upon conclusion of the sale, the oil will be shifted from the frac tanks into approved containers for transport.
Contaminated oil, oily water removed from the ship’s deck, oiled sorbent pads and personal protective equipment, and other waste from the response will be disposed by Emerald Alaska Inc. in accordance with local, state and federal guidelines.
“The State of Alaska appreciates the prompt actions to successfully contain and prevent the release of any product spilled on the deck of the ship once the leaks were discovered on May 31st,” said John Engles, environmental prevention and emergency specialist for Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and the state’s representative on the unified command. “This incident occurred right next to one of Port Valdez’s most sensitive ecological sites, the Valdez Duck Flats, and the BBC Arizona quickly initiated their contingency plan and activated all necessary people and equipment to prevent a spill in the area.”
Following a small fire and discovery of multiple leaking oil containers aboard the ship May 31, a unified command composed of the Coast Guard, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, City of Valdez and Gallagher Marine Systems, LLC, stood up to coordinate response operations. The first week of the response involved environmental mitigation measures, offloading all Alaska-bound cargo, and construction of a shoreside decontamination area. During the second week, all containers were offloaded, emptied, and cleaned. The cause of the container leaks remains under investigation.