Exxon Valdez Case Study

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Crude oil from Alaska North Slope located in Prudhoe Bay field lies 800 miles south through the Trans-Alaska Pipeline to the port of Valdez, where super tankers transfer oil from the Alyeska Pipeline Terminal through Prince William Sound (PWS) and the Gulf of Alaska (GOA).
March 24, 1989, the 987-foot tanker, Exxon Valdez struck Bligh Reef in PWS, Alaska. It was the largest oil spill in U.S. history at that time. The oil slick spread thousands of square miles onto beaches in PWS affecting humans, livelihood, environment and the petroleum industry. Due to this event, Exxon Valdez spill strongly influenced future mitigation techniques as well as new laws and legislation with the petroleum industries.

Description of the incident
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The Exxon Shipping Company failed to provide a full complement and well rested crew for the Exxon Valdez. It could have been possible for another officer to check the plot and identify the hazard in time.
4. Effective pilot and escort services were lacking.
5. The US Coast Guard failed to provide a proper vessel tracking system.

The Impact of the incident on the environment
Although the Exxon Valdez oil spill does not rank highly as the largest oil spill, the impact on the environment proved to be the most disastrous. The location of the spill inside a contained body of water rather than in the open ocean resulted in the oil being sequestered causing weathering by wave action, light and bacteria to be inhibited, the seasonal timing and geographical location also influenced the severity of the impact. Effects of the spill are still evident twenty-seven years after it occurred. Figure 2 Spill comparison by number of barrels spilled, (Source:
The 25,900 square kilometers of shoreline that was affected by the spill, were home to a national forest, four wildlife refuges, three national parks, five state parks, four critical habitats and a state game sanctuary (Knickerbocker, 1999).
Effect on
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In communities within the contaminated districts, clean-up workers suffered respiratory system damage due to inhalation of oil mist which was 12 times in excess of regulatory limits. There were also increased number of reports of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression.

Table 1: Showing Social, Cultural and Individual Impacts of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (Braund & Kruse, 2009)

The Exxon Valdez U.S. tank ship left the Alyeska Marine Terminal March 1989, carrying 1.2 million barrels crude oil to Long Beach, California. The ship aground on Bligh Reef as 8 of its 11 cargo tanks was ruptured spilling over 258,000 barrels of oil into pristine Alaskan waters.
The oil spill caused monumental environmental damage to the Alaskan coastline where some species are still recovering from today. The impact of the spill on flora and fauna, human life and the economy was staggering which was caused by human error, lack of adequate resources and insufficient support from external systems.
The oil spill tested the preparedness and response to a disaster of this magnitude, which revealed many shortcomings. Due to this historical event, numerous important lessons and recommendations emerged to prevent or mitigate the impacts of future
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