Exxon Valdez Oil Spill


  • Joe Whiffen


On March 23, 1989, the Exxon Valdez crude oil tanker began its journey to Long Beach, California, which would become one of the most monumental marine accidents in the history of the United States of America. Shortly after midnight, just three hours after its departure from the port of Valdez, the vessel ran aground. It had struck a rock formation on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska. The cause of the accident still has some uncertainty to this date, as the ship’s captain was unsuccessfully accused of being under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident, and the ship’s third mate failed to return the ship to its designated shipping lane following iceberg manoeuvring. This disaster had significant environmental and economic consequences, but fortunately escaped any human consequences (although there were four deaths associated with the clean-up efforts). An estimated 250,000 to 750,000 barrels of crude oil spilled into the Alaskan waters, a fifth of the entire vessel’s storage capacity. Subsequent clean-up efforts lacked the required preparation and experience for such a massive undertaking.






Coastal and Ocean Engineering (ENGI.8751)