Unions say Edison Chouest contract with Alyeska 'not a done deal'

The following is text of a press release issued by the Inlandboatmen’s Union the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots:

(Anchorage, Alaska) – The contract announced this month between Alyeska Pipeline Services Company and Edison Chouest Offshore is “not a done deal,” say maritime labor leaders representing Alaska mariners, who are concerned about the safety of Prince William Sound and the creation and retention of good-paying Alaska jobs.

Alyeska, owned by oil giants BP, Conoco and ExxonMobil, has decided to replace Crowley Marine, which has provided oil tanker escort and oil spill response services for 25 years without serious incident. The transfer of operations to Edison Chouest Offshore – a company best known in Alaska for its role in the Kulluk oil rig disaster – has raised both economic and environmental concerns, says Alan Cote, president of the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU).

“Representatives of two companies put their names on a scrap of paper, but this is not a done deal,” said Cote. “They don’t own Prince William Sound. We’re insisting that state and local authorities take a much closer look at this agreement, which was negotiated behind closed doors with the goal of cutting costs and cutting corners. Alaska workers and citizens deserve due diligence and transparency before putting human and natural resources at risk.”

Alyeska and Edison Chouest have claimed that a “vigorous vetting process” took place before the mariners from Crowley Marine, with decades of experience in navigating waters of Prince William Sound, were replaced with a firm that plans to employ out-of-state workers housed in man camps, unfamiliar with Alaska’s unique and sometimes treacherous waters and fragile environment.

Despite repeated inquiries, however, no information has been made publicly available as to whether the state of Alaska or other public bodies have reviewed the vetting process.  No public hearings have been held and almost no one in the effected local communities or among the Sound’s maritime pilots or other experts has been consulted.

Don Marcus, president of the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots (MM&P) said, “Cutting costs is not the same as keeping Prince William Sound safe and secure.”

“Edison Chouest is a financially troubled company that eliminated more than 2,000 jobs in 2015 and forced deep wage and benefit cuts this year. Rather than using crews experienced in Alaska’s unforgiving maritime conditions or hiring Alaskan workers, they plan to bring Gulf Coast workers off of layoff and give them the difficult task of operating in Prince William Sound,” said Marcus. “That’s going to put at risk the Alaska environment as well as the economy. It doesn’t give you much confidence about protecting the waters that sustain fishing, tourism, recreation, maritime and other local industries.”

In addition to its role in the Kulluk disaster, recent news accounts indicate that Edison Chouest has failed to meet promises to create jobs in exchange for public subsidies from state governments in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. State and local governments on the Gulf are now asking for “clawbacks” in an attempt to recoup millions of tax dollars lost to Edison Chouest Offshore.

By Professional Mariner Staff