Restrictions on Shipments of Alaskan Oil Reimposed
Restrictions on deliveries of oil from Alaska were reimposed at the request of Alaska’s governor because of fears that officials cleaning up the worst oil spill in U.S. history lack the equipment to deal with another spill, the Coast Guard said today.
Randall Peterson, a spokesman at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, said the daylight-only and one-way steaming restrictions will remain “in place indefinitely based on the availability of pollution control equipment.”
On Monday, Peterson said normal 24-hour, two-way shipping in and out of the port of Valdez had resumed because a favorable wind had provided unexpected help in cleaning the shipping channel of oil from the March 24 spill.
But the spokesman said today that the restrictions have been reimposed at the request of Alaska Gov. Steve Cowper.
He said Cowper feared that so much equipment was involved in the cleanup of the spill, the worst in North American history, that there would not be enough available to deal with another spill if it occurred.
The spokesman said, however, that deliveries will begin to eat into the backlog of oil that has built up at Valdez because two more tugs have been assigned to escort tankers.
Only eight tankers were waiting to enter Valdez to take on oil, contrasted with nine Monday and a peak of 14 tankers last week, Peterson said.
The contradictory reports from the Coast Guard have caused confusion in the oil market and caused prices to rise in early trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange Tuesday.
Prices plummeted Monday when fears of shortages were allayed after the Coast Guard said it was allowing normal deliveries to resume.
On Monday, Peterson said the restrictions were being lifted because an unexpected wind had blown the oil slick to the southwest, away from the regular shipping channels.
Even with the restrictions, Peterson said today, deliveries are approaching the loading of three to four tankers a day, the level that existed before the grounding of the Exxon Valdez on a reef.
A higher delivery level will be needed to eat into the backlog, he said.
Deliveries last week were restricted to half the normal rate because tankers were required to use an unfamiliar alternate route around the oil slick during the cleanup.