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Oil Tanker Traffic in Alaska Growing Due To Mishap

While waiting for an escort to Valdez in mid-April, an unladen Oil Tanker that is part of an increasing number of foreign-flagged vessels transporting Alaska crude reportedly dragged its anchor for nearly 4 miles in rough Gulf of Alaska seas. According to records compiled by the Bermuda-flagged tanker Stena Suede, the mishap resulted in a broken windlass, or anchor winch, but nothing else.

The federally appointed public oversight group charged with Oil industry operation in Prince William Sound, as well as a group of marine pilots who escort large vessels through Southcentral Alaska’s frequently shallow, tricky nearshore waters, were both concerned. When the winds started to pick up on April 14, the crew of the 810-foot Stena Suede agreed to drop anchor approximately 20 miles outside of the Hinchinbrook Entrance to Prince William Sound, according to the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council, or PWSRCAC.

Due to the constantly rising winds, the crew decided to change course and attempt to pull the anchor after several hours. The Stena Suede pulled the anchor for nearly 4 miles — to a spot 16.5 miles from Hinchinbrook Entrance — over the course of 30 hours. Based on information from the council and a vessel monitoring service, the crew reset the anchor and worked to fix the anchor windlass after the windlass motor failed.

The Stena Suede arrived a day late at the Valdez Marine Terminal on April 16 and left Valdez on April 17. The attempt to anchor in the open Gulf of Alaska heightened the council’s attention to the increased frequency of international tankers chartered by North Slope producers to transport Alaska Oil to refineries around the world, according to PWSRCAC spokeswoman Brooke Taylor.

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