State-of-the-Art BP Crude Tankers Suffer Yet Another Equipment Failure

By MarEx 2012-12-18 14:32:00

The most modern vessels in the U.S. merchant fleet, equipped with multiple redundant safety features, have again reported suffering equipment failure. Alaska Tank Company, the operator of four $250 million double-hull tankers, have begun the process of replacing as many as 74 mooring bitts on three of the four vessels in this class. The tankers have previously experienced such problems as cracked rudders and anchors that went missing at sea.

In September, a bitt broke off of the starboard bow of the crude tanker Alaskan Navigator during a mooring operation in Valdez, AK. The iron bitt then was pulled over the side and into the water. There were no injuries, according to Coast guard accounts. Since then, the ship’s operator has employed testing that has determined that not only that bitt was defective, but also many others on three ATC vessels.

The problem with the bitts is not the first such hiccup for this class of vessels. In late December, the Alaskan Frontier and Alaskan Navigator lost anchors in heavy weather while transiting from Valdez, Alaska, to Long Beach, California. There were no injuries to the crew or harm to the environment in either incident. A subsequent inspection of the remaining anchor on each vessel revealed a material defect in each anchor. ATC took the vessels out of service and replaced the anchors. Before that, in the spring of 2005, two of the ships were idled after cracks were discovered in their rudders.

The Alaska class vessels, delivered between 2004 and 2005, employ environmentally-friendly design, incorporating double-hulls, dual rudders and dual engineering suites. The redundancies are intended to prevent one single system failure from incapacitating the vessel. The $250 million vessels have a nominal capacity of about 1.3 million barrels and were delivered to ATC by shipbuilder National Steel and Shipbuilding Co. of San Diego.

According to ATC’s WEB site, the Alaska Tanker Company (ATC) was created in 1999 by Keystone Shipping Company, (37.5%), OSG Ship Management (37.5%) and BP Oil Shipping Company, USA (25%) to consolidate all of BP’s Alaskan crude oil shipping requirements into one operating company.