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Exxon Valdez Disaster

     While in recent years the gulf oil spill has become the most talked about oil tragedy of all time, prior to that accident the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 was the largest oil spill in the waters of the United States. The Valdez oil spill had a disastrous environmental impact that has been called one of the most crippling environmental disasters caused by man kind in recorded history.

The Exxon Valdez oil spill happened in a remote location that made response time and cleanup very difficult. The oil began spilling into the Prince William Sound in Alaska after a ship that was said to have nearly 55 million gallons of oil on board, ran aground in shallow waters. The area is only accessible by air or water so it was difficult for rescue and clean-up crews to respond quickly. Reports of exactly how much oil spilled into the Alaskan sound vary but numbers ranging from 11 million to 32 million gallons of oil are widely reported. The lower amount has been accepted by the state of Alaska and is the number that has been used in all of their reporting. The oil was drilled in the Prudhoe Bay, loaded on the ship and was being transported through the sound. Final damage reports estimated that the oil eventually spread out over 11,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean. More that 1,300 miles of the Alaskan Coast was covered in a black gooey mess. While the remote area kept the oil spill from affecting very many people, the costs to the areas wildlife was immeasurable. Sea otters, seals, birds and fish were among the animals directly affected. These losses had further repercussions on larger animals that rely on the smaller species for food.

There have been many investigations into what exactly caused the accident. Final reports site a variety of circumstances and miscommunications that lead to the conditions that caused the accident. One report showed that the crew of the Exxon Valdez was overworked and were not getting enough sleep. The third mate who was in charge of steering the vessel at the time of the accident is said to have been possible fatigued. The ships Raytheon Collision Avoidance System did not function properly due to a lack of proper maintenance. At the time of the accident the radar system was off it had broken more than a year before and Exxon officials decided to disable it rather than spend the money to fix it. If the warning system had been operating properly perhaps that whole disaster could have been avoided.

One of the first cases settled pertaining to the spill was Baker Vs Exxon. A jury in Anchorage called for Exxon to pay 287 million dollars in actual damages and 5 billion dollars in punitive damages. To ensure Exxon could cover the expense if the judgment held on appeal the oil company look out a line of credit with J.P. Morgan & Company. In 1994 the financial company created the banking practice now known as a credit default swap so they would not have to have as much money in their reserves to cover the risk. Several other cases were brought against the company including one by a group of Seattle based fishing companies.

Find out more about Environmental Contractor Insurance and how Beacon Hill Associates can help you.

Find out more about Environmental Contractor Insurance at and how Beacon Hill Associates can help you

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Find out more about Environmental Contractor Insurance and how Beacon Hill Associates can help you.

Posted on 2012-09-07, By: *

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