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Nine years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaskan waters, Capt. Joseph Hazelwood began his sentence of 1,000 hours of community service Monday by loading roadside junk onto a truck. Tuesday, he put on an apron and gloves to help prepare salad at a soup kitchen in Anchorage.
History & Qualifications|
Personnel records provided by Exxon show that the master of the Exxon Valdez, Joseph J. Hazelwood, received a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Transportation from the State University of New York Maritime College in May of 1968. At the time he also received a Federal license, which qualified him to serve as third mate of steam and motor vessels of any tonnage upon oceans. He was 42 at the time of the spill and in command.
He was employed by Humble Oil and Refining Co. (the predecessor company of Exxon Shipping Company) as a third mate on June 10, 1968. During his career with Humble/Exxon, he took numerous marine courses sponsored by Exxon. He upgraded his license to second mate in 1971, to chief mate in 1973 and to master in 1977, making him eligible for promotion to the level of the respective licenses. He obtained a Federal pilotage endorsement to his masters license for Prince William Sound between Cape Hinchinbrook and Rockey Point in Alaska in 1987. He was promoted to second mate in 1978, to chief mate in 1979, to relieving master in early 1979, and to master in 1980.
Since his promotion to master, he had served on nine tankerships with no breaks in service except for authorized leave periods. He had served as the alternate master on the Exxon Valdez since 1987 and had worked in the Alaskan trade for about 10 years. During this period, the master made well over 100 round trips through Prince William Sound. (NTSB Final Report)
About 13 hours before the accident, the master, accompanied by the chief engineer (Jerzy Clowacki) and the radio electronics officer (Joel Roberson), went ashore while the Exxon Valdez was loading cargo at the Alyeska Marine Terminal. The Alyeska security logbook shows that they departed the terminal gate at 1059 on March 23, 1989. They were met by the ship's agent, who drove them to the agent's office at Alaska Maritime Agencies, Inc., in Valdez shortly after 1100. For 45 minutes the master and chief engineer conducted routine ships business in a meeting. After the meeting the pilot who had conducted the inbound transit of the vessel to the Valdez Terminal picked up the three men and went to a restaurant for lunch.
One and a half hours later the pilot drove the three men to a small shopping center, and the three separated to run personal errands. They agreed to meet later in the afternoon at a town bar. The chief engineer arrived at the bar at about 1600. The master arrived 30 minutes later and the radio electronics officer arrived shortly after the master. At the bar the men played darts and mingled and bought a round or two of drinks each.
The men left the bar about 1900 and returned to the restaraunt they had eaten lunch at and ordered two pizzas to take back to the ship. They then went next door to an adjacent bar to await the preparation of the pizza. The three all had one drink while they waited. At about 1930 their pizza was ready and they called a cab to return to the ship. The security log at the terminal show the men returned to the terminal gate at 2024.
The pilot conducting the outbound transit from the terminal stated he smelled alcohol on the masters breath when the master returned to the ship . However, it was his impression that the master's behavior and speech were unimpaired. The pilot said the master left the bridge after they had gotten under way and remained away until the pilot called him shortly before disembarking at Rockey Point, about 1 1/2 hours. The pilot stated that he again smelled alcohol on the master's breath, but the masters speech and behavior gave no indication of impairment.
At 2343 the master left the bridge after giving the third mate (Greggory Cousins) directions on how to avoid the ice flows in the tanker lanes and ordering the helmsman (Robert Kagan) to change course to 180 degrees. At approximately 0005 the master returned to the bridge after receiving a phone call from the third mate and feeling the ship ground. At 0024 the master notified the Vessel Traffic Center in Valdez that the ship was hard aground. (NTSB Final Report)
Hazelwood, who had a short history of substance abuse, was fired by Exxon, lost his license to captain a ship, and was slapped with criminal charges (for leaving command of the ship to an officer not certified to handle it inside the Sound) as well as civil suits. He was convicted of only one charge: negligent discharge of oil. After eight years of appeals, in November 1998, Hazelwood and Alaskan prosecuters reached a deal: Hazelwood will serve 200 hours of community service in Alaska per year until 2004.
The Valdez still sails but under a different name, the Exxon Mediterranean, but Hazelwood, again licensed to captain a ship, has yet to resume his tanker captain career. Unable to find employment in the same field, he has had to try his hand at other seafaring jobs, such as lobster fishing.
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