Ship Escort Response Vessel System (SERVS)
Ship Escort Response Vessel System (SERVS)
Diligent environmental stewardship is Alyeska’s license to operate in Alaska and nowhere is this more visible than in Prince William Sound. The Ship Escort Response Vessel System (SERVS) was created in 1989 to prevent oil spills and provide oil spill response and preparedness capabilities for Alyeska Pipeline Service Company and the marine shipping companies who operate the tankers that call at the Valdez Marine Terminal. Working closely with the U.S. Coast Guard, SERVS personnel monitor vessel traffic so tankers can safely travel through the Sound and coordinate a fleet of purpose-built vessels and response equipment.
State-of-the-art tugboats guide tankers from the Valdez Marine Terminal through the Valdez Narrows to Hinchinbrook Entrance. Two powerful tugs depart with every tanker and can slow or stop a tanker if needed, a key spill prevention capability. The tugs are also loaded with oil spill response equipment such as boom, skimmers and smaller work boats.
Oil spill response capabilities
SERVS maintains a constant state of readiness. Crews are available to respond to an oil spill 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Equipment and crews are staged to protect key locations around Prince William Sound, like salmon hatcheries and other environmentally sensitive areas. SERVS must have the equipment and personnel to recover 300,000 barrels of oil in 72 hours.
- 10 Escort & Response Tugs
- 7 Oil Recovery Barges
- 90 Skimming Units
- 40 Miles of Various Boom
- 5 Hatchery Protection Sites
- 5 Response Centers
- 400+ Vessels Participating in Vessel of Opportunity Program
- On-water storage capacity of 900,000+ barrels of oil
- Otter Rehabilitation Module, also known as the “Otter Hospital,” a rare, award-winning facility designed to treat and rehabilitate otters affected by an oil spill
Drills and exercises
Response readiness goes beyond equipment: personnel must be trained to react quickly and efficiently in the event of a spill. That’s why Alyeska employees train for oil spill response year-round. Alyeska and SERVS perform more than 100 drills and exercises every year. These events vary in size and scale, and can be planned in advance or be unannounced. Some events are small and occur regularly, such as a call-out to check the availability of spill responders. Some are large and intensive; once or twice a year, there are full-scale drills in Prince William Sound. A large emergency response team is activated, and more than 200 people – from Alyeska, governmental agencies and community organizations – participate in table-top exercises to rehearse the response to a large marine spill.
Vessel of Opportunity program
Alyeska contracts with more than 400 vessels around Prince William Sound to provide oil spill response support. The Vessel of Opportunity program was started in 1990 to employ locals in oil spill response, especially those working in the fishing industry. Today, the boats and their crews are an integral part of Alyeska’s response readiness and trusted team members.
Every year, vessels of opportunity participate in rigorous training that lasts several days. Crews spend time learning oil spill and emergency response basics. Then they head on water for hands-on experience. They work with SERVS personnel on response barges to load up their own boats with equipment, and then practice deploying boom, setting up skimmers, and rehearsing other recovery tactics. Additionally, many vessels participate in drills and exercises to ensure they are prepared to respond in case of an actual incident.
Vessel Administrators have offices in Cordova, Whittier, Kodiak, Homer, Seward, and Valdez. Captains interested in joining the Vessel of Opportunity program should contact Alyeska’s Vessel Coordinator at [email protected]
A new fleet
In July 2018, Alyeska transitioned major marine services duties from Crowley Marine Services to Edison Chouest Offshore (ECO). ECO designed and built a fleet of new, innovative tugs and response barges to protect Prince William Sound. The ECO fleet incorporates new technology, winches and lessons learned from the last 20 years, with additional power, capabilities and flexibility.
Learn more about the SERVS/ECO partnership and work in Prince William Sound: