Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Northwest Oil Shipping: Near Misses and Almost-Spills

Oil Tankers Inbound by Pieter Van Marion (CC)
Oil Tankers Inbound by Pieter Van Marion used under CC BY-NC 2.0

Northwest Ships: Near Misses and Almost-Spills

Two dozen times when we avoided catastrophe, narrowly.

Eric de Place  and Ahren Stroming      January 20, 2015   Sightline

The Northwest is evaluating more than a dozen major projects that would add oil tankers and other major cargo ships to the region’s waters. Nearly all of these plans would affect Washington’s waters: either on the Columbia River, Grays Harbor, or in the labyrinthine channels of the Salish Sea. In the simplest terms, increasing ship traffic means increasing risk. And as the region is contemplating an astonishing jump in vessel traffic, it’s worth pausing to examine the record.

As with actual oil spills, near misses are frighteningly common. Natural phenomena, like winds and tides, compound human blunders to result in collisions and groundings (and narrowly averted ones). Alongside these mishaps are countless instances of mechanical failure. They do not always spill oil, but the risk is nearly omnipresent.

For example? In the months of November and December 2011 alone, large bulk or container vessels, often carrying hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel oil in single-hulled tanks,  experienced nine separate incidences of mechanical failure or a loss of propulsion in Washington waterways. During that same two-month period, three different laden oil tankers drifted into dangerous collision courses with other vessels, prompting Coast Guard authorities to intervene. Indeed, episodes of tank vessels straying into the path of oncoming traffic, and vice versa, occur with startling regularity, spared only by Coast Guard operators hundreds of miles away who happen to notice an unusual blip on their screens.....     more here
19 Jan 2015
Exporting crude oil and natural gas from the United States is among the dumbest energy ideas of all time.

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