The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

For the Star 

Stakeholders visit Edison Chouest, the upcoming SERVS contractor

New guys slated to take over oil movement support in summer of 2018


A change of guard is coming to Prince William Sound.

Next year, SERVS, a branch of Alyeska Pipeline Service, will switch contractors to aid in the business of moving oil from Port Valdez.

Crowley Marine will be exiting and Edison Chouest will take over on July 1, 2018. In support of the deal, thirteen new vessels are being built specifically for Prince William Sound.

Alyeska has made monthly trips to Edison Chouest in Louisiana for shipyard assurance. During those trips, the vessels are inspected in order to make sure that everything is on schedule.

The last two trips were more than just shipyard assurance, the trips was stakeholder visits.

"The focus of these last two (trips) is primarily focus is information for stakeholders, an introduction and more familiarization with Edison Chouest and their company and what they do," said Mike Day, Alyeska's services transition manager.

Staff and board members from Aleyska, Prince Williams Sound Regional Citizens Advisory Council, and members of Prince William Sound communities tagged along for the trips south. The group was able to meet the staff that are being sent by Edison Chouest.

The groups also went to two of the five sites where the thirteen vessels are being built.

Edison Chouest is building five escort tugs, four general purpose tugs, and four oil spill response barges. Most of the vessels are being built at sites in Louisiana and Mississippi. Three of the barges are being constructed at Gunderson Marine Shipyard in Portland, Oregon.

Right now, the vessels are on schedule.

"The escort tugs are about half-done. The general purpose tugs are about half-done," Day said. "They kind of build them in pairs. But they are all on schedule."

The new Edison Chouest escort tugs are all azimuth thruster or Z-drive forward skag tugs. Crowley currently uses a combination of Voith-Schneider and Z-drive tugs. The Z-drive tugs have a higher horsepower. They also have an upgraded wench system that provides greater tension in heavy seas.

Valdez Star file photo

SERVS vessels during a spill drill with Cordova fishermen last spring.

"The drives are different. However, it makes the entire fleet interchangeable which gives us a lot of flexibility, operationally," Day said. They can all tow about 20 percent greater capability than the existing fleet."

The first escort tug is scheduled to arrive in Prince William Sound on February 5. The general purpose tug and oil spill response barge are slated to arrive on February 12. After the arrival, the vessels will be used for training and demonstrations. The rest of the fleet will arrive between next May and June.

Now, Alyeska and Edison Chouest will shift their focus on training.

This month, there will be oil response training in Louisiana. Shipyard assurance will continue through September. Stakeholder visits will continue in November.

Crowley has provided marine services in Prince William Sound since 1990.


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