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Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
At 2335 on March 23, 1989, the Exxon Valdez arrived at berth 5 of the Alyeska Marine Terminal, to load cargo of Alaska North Slope crude oil. At 0054 on March 23, transfer of ballast water to the terminal was started. By 0415, all ballast water had been discharged, and at 0505, loading of the crude oil began. About 1030, the master (Joseph Hazelwood), accompanied by the chief engineer (Jerzy B Glowacki) and the electronics officer (Joel Roberson), departed the vessel to go ashore
Loading of cargo completed at 1924, and the chief mate (James R. Kunkle) directed the third mate (Gregory T Cousins), who had been assisting him with topping-off operations, to go to the bridge and test the navigation equipment. Also at this time the deck force was ordered to begin securing the decks for sea.
At 2020 the same pilot (William E Murphy) who had piloted the vessel into port boarded the vessel. He proceeded to the bridge and found everything in order after stopping by the master's quarters and finding him not there. At this time an Exxon agent also boarded the ship to gather cargo information, he waited on the bridge for the master to return. About 2030 the master returned to the ship and after 2040 he entered the bridge.
The last mooring line was removed at 2112 and the pilot began moving the vessel away from the berth with the assistance of two tugs. By 2121 the vessel was clear and the pilot turned the vessel towards the entrance to the harbor known as the Valdez Narrows. One tug was released from duty at this time.
At about 2130 the master left the bridge. At this time the pilot was still in command. As the vessel approached the Narrows the pilot reduced speed to 6 knots. After passing through the Narrows the pilot brought the vessel to a heading of 219 degrees to conform with the outbound traffic lane. The master returned to the bridge shortly thereafter and relieved the pilot of the navigational control of the vessel. The master also directed the third mate to escort the pilot to the debarkation ladder. The pilot departed the vessel at 2324 and at 2325 the master informed the Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Center (VTC) that the pilot was away and that he was bringing the vessel up to "sea speed"
The vessels course was adjusted to 200 degrees at 2331 to avoid ice by moving to the inbound traffic lane. Later at 2339 the tanker was brought to 180 degrees by the master. Course was shown at a steady 180 degrees and the helmsman (Robert M Kagan) placed the ship on automatic pilot per the masters orders at 2343. The master left the bridge after explaining to the third mate that he wanted the ship to pass between the ice flow and Bligh Reef at 2352.
Shortly thereafter the third mate turned off the automatic pilot in preparation to turn the vessel and took a bearing of Busby Island Light. The third mate then ordered the helmsman to apply 10 degrees right rudder and informed the master the the turn had began. Two minutes later the third mate ordered 20 degrees right rudder when he saw that the vessel was not turning. Again two minutes later he ordered hard right rudder due to the reading of the radar that the ship was still traveling at a heading of 180 degrees.
After returning to the radar shortly the third mate phoned the master and stated "I think we are in serious trouble." At the end of the telephone conversation the vessel contacted the bottom. Approximately 40 to 50 seconds later the vessel sustained several sharp jolts for 10 seconds as if the vessel was riding over something. The vessel grounded at a disputed 0004 (0009 is Exxon's estimation) on the morning of March 24th, 1989.
The master notified the VTC that the ship had grounded at 0027. At 0335 the Executive Officer and the Senior Investigating Officer of the Coast Guards Valdez Marine Safety Office boarded the vessel.