Coast Guard investigating second accident involving Chouest in Prince William Sound

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(VALDEZ, Alaska) — A congressionally created oversight group is asking Alaska regulators to boost training requirements after Edison Chouest Offshore, the new spill response contractor in Prince William Sound, had its second accident in a week, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

In the latest incident on June 29, Edison Chouest's 140-foot escort tug Challenger reported hitting bottom as it helped a barge anchor, said Lt. Carlos Quintero, the U.S. Coast Guard public affairs officer in Valdez. A work skiff tied to the barge was caught between the larger vessels and was damaged, he said.

On June 27, Edison Chouest's 105-foot tug Ingot made a "hard landing" as it helped dock the oil tanker Florida. The tanker's outer hull was dented, leading to a U.S. Coast Guard inspection before it could receive oil and sail again.

No one was injured and no fuel was spilled in either incident. But they occurred around a closely watched transition as Edison Chouest on July 1 officially took over oil tanker escort and spill prevention duties from longtime operator Crowley Marine. The Coast Guard said it is investigating both accidents.

The Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council is concerned some crews need more time to learn how to handle the new equipment, according to a July 5 letter from the group to Larry Hartig, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner.

"We believe these two incidents are clear symptoms that this transition was too rushed," said the letter, signed by Donna Schantz, the council's executive director. The incoming crews need more training to improve communications, fine-tune vessel operations, and learn the response system and local weather, she said.

State regulators and Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., which hired Edison, said the training requirements are extensive and continuing.

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By Professional Mariner Staff