Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
In this March 26, 1989 picture, the smaller vessel Exxon Baton Rouge, left, attempts to off-load crude oil from the Exxon Valdez. Two days before, four minutes after midnight The Valdez ran aground in Alaska’s Prince William sound shortly after leaving Trans-Alaska pipeline terminal at Valdez, spilling about 11 million gallons of crude oil, causing widespread environmental damage. Within a few days, some 250,000 to 260,000 barrels of crude oil leak from the tanker, contaminating over 2,000 kms of Alaska coastline. Although three-quarters of the crude oil were recovered, it was still the largest oil spill in history.
The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the cause lies with a third mate who failed to properly maneuver the vessel due to fatigue and excessive workload and with the captain with alcohol problems. However, the real cause was that Valdez, like 60% of all oil tankers, has no double hull. Only 0.1 inch of steel separate these vessels from an oil spill.
Exxon financed the cleanup operations at a cost of $2.1 billion over four Arctic summers. Some 10,000 workers were hired to scrub the oil from the rocky shoreline and the wildlife. Although the original punitive damages awarded totalled $5 billion, the Supreme Court reduced it to $507.5 million last week.
Above photo, taken by Rob Stapleton for AP, shows the extent of oil spill.