Alyeska offloading berth returns to service

Posted: Wednesday, December 20, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Berth 4 at Alyeska's marine terminal in Valdez returned to service Saturday.

A tanker began taking oil from the berth at 9:47 a.m. and finished loading a little more than eight hours later.

Berth 4 was the scene of an incident Oct. 19 that has triggered a U.S. Coast Guard assessment of the safety of oil port operations and shipping in Prince William Sound.

While performing maintenance work on the berth, a worker put a strap around an electric-suppressing flange, allowing electricity to reach the end of a boom that collects toxic oil vapors from crude oil during loading. As the boom neared the tanker deck of the tanker Polar Alaska, a small electric spark flashed.

There was too little vapor in the area to start a fire, but Alyeska called the incident ''a near miss.'' Regulators at the state-federal Joint Pipeline Office suggested the incident could have ignited a major fire.

According to Alyeska, terminal operators brought three of the berth's four loading arms back to full capacity Saturday to test redesigned arms with the original 24-inch flow valves. The three functioning loading arms performed to expectations with no abnormal vibration and the company will decide whether to install the fourth valve.

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