March, 1989

198924MarAll DayExxon Valdez 1989 - Incident SummaryVery large crude carrier groundingLessons:Competency,Emergency Preparedness,Stakeholder Engagement,Workforce InvolvementLanguage:EN Origin: IChemE SLP Document Type:SummaryTopics:Human Factors


A single-hull very large crude carrier (VLCC) which had been loaded with approximately 1,263,000 barrels of Prudhoe Bay crude oil at the Valdez Marine Terminal (AK, USA) ran aground on Bligh Reef, a well-known navigational hazard in Prince William Sound, while bound for Long Beach (CA, USA). The vessel was under the navigational control of the Third Mate at the time of the incident. The grounding ruptured 8 cargo tanks, spilling around 258,000 barrels of oil into the sea. At the time, this was the largest single oil spill in US waters. There were no injuries but there was catastrophic damage to the environment. The oil spill killed an estimated 250,000 sea birds, 3,000 otters, 300 seals, 250 bald eagles and 22 killer whales. Fishing in oil-polluted waters was prohibited so many villages in the area, which were heavily dependent on salmon and herring fishing, faced financial ruin.

Basic Cause:
Rupture of cargo tanks due to damage sustained by the ship’s hull when it ran aground on a reef.


IChemE SLPSafety & Loss Prevention Special Interest Group