Coast Guard reopens Port of Valdez under tight security after 13-hour closure

Posted: Wednesday, September 12, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- Oil shipments resumed at the Port of Valdez on Wednesday under the watch of a Coast Guard cutter and fighter jets offering air cover above the port, officials said.

The Port of Valdez, which pumps about a million barrels of oil per day and provides 17 percent of the nation's oil supply, was closed by the Coast Guard on Tuesday following terrorist attacks in the East Coast.

The order to reopen the port came at 12:30 a.m. Wednesday after security concerns were assessed there, said Lt. Brad Wilson, a Coast Guard spokesman.

''The port for all practical purposes is open,'' Wilson said.

Coast Guard Cutter Roanoke Island was stationed in Prince William Sound on Wednesday and fighter jets provided air security over Valdez, officials with the state Division of Emergency Services said during a briefing on Wednesday.

The decision to close the port was part of heightened security measures taken nationwide by federal officials in the wake of terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon. Four commercial jetliners were hijacked and crashed.

The 800-mile trans-Alaska oil pipeline continued to pump crude from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez under tightened security and was stored at the Valdez tanker terminal.

As part of stepped up security measures, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. increased security patrols along the route of the pipeline, an official with the state Department of Public Safety official. About 420 miles of the pipeline is above ground and the rest is buried and much of it passes through remote wilderness.

Tim Woolston, Alyeska spokesman, said the 13-hour closure caused no real disruption in oil shipments.

''We have delays and shorter shutdowns for a variety of reasons that last longer than that,'' Woolston said. ''This, as it turned out, was not a significant interruption for us.''

Three loaded tankers were allowed to leave on Tuesday but three empty tankers were kept in Prince William Sound overnight, Woolston said.

Alyeska is owned by a consortium of oil companies.

The pipeline has been a target of sabotage in the past.

Alfred Reumayr was arrested in August 1999 and charged with plotting to blow up the pipeline in an attempt to drive up oil prices and reap a profit.

A hole was blasted in the line with explosives in 1978, resulting in 16,000 barrels of oil spilling out at Steele Creek near Fairbanks. No one was ever arrested in connection with that blast.

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