Environmental Ethics in Oil Spill Exxon Valdez Occupational Stress Lesson

Environmental Ethics in Oil Spill Exxon Valdez Occupational Stress Lesson

Environmental Ethics in Oil Spill Exxon Valdez Occupational Stress Lesson

Introduction: Why we need to care about the oil spill?

The increasing demand for the crude oil for transportation was booming since their discoveries in the 1900s. The use of a car, automobile, and truck promote the oil company to racing against time to deliver sufficient quality oil product for the automobile and industrial demands. The unethical behavior such as short-cuts and limited operation budget lead to the disaster such as Exxon Valdez in 1989. Why big and good reputation of such Exxon led to the disastrous events which contribute significant impact to the environment?

Based on previously reported data there was a significant increase in crude oil demands throughout the world. Why 1989 Exxon Valdez become the hallmark of the modern oil spill in the world? In 1990, there is no specific oil pollution guideline to protect the environment from the operation of oil industries. This led to unfair business when it comes to the environment protection during the accident happens. The impact of the oil spill probably not important to human as this issues way beyond the reach of human aspect directly (Dorsett, 2010). In 1989, the Exxon Valdez tragedy already teaches the enforcement officer, oil producer, and policy maker about the wrong policy and action can lead to a disaster which will never fully recover.

However, after decades, the proved of the oil spill in Exxon Valdez making a statement that oil spill can impact the human life directly. Since the accident, the production and fishing industries nearby the coastal line was declining and the beautiful beach become un-attractive in nature which led to the isolated condition among human. In 2010, Martin & Simon, report that the bankruptcy occurs due to the declining fishing activities, as the result of the oil spill.

Environmental Ethics in Oil Spill Exxon Valdez Occupational Stress Lesson


1.1       Effect of the oil spill to biological nature and human

Oil that coming from the oil spill is relatively composite of many chemicals. Some of the crude oil contains harmful chemical and organic pollutants that may vary their volatility and chemistry towards the biochemistry of the animals or biological agents.

Direct ingestion of the oil coming out from the Exxon Valdez situation prove to be toxic for any mammals and birds nearby the coastal line of impacted areas. The external route of exposure via feathers and skin can also be being absorbed into their skin which later on becomes damage and the layer of the skin becomes unprotected through whether an external infection. With the condition of Alaska was cold in nature, the insulation of the animal was ruin and thus lead to hypothermia and sudden death due to multiple effects from the toxic elements until the thermoregulation of the heat tolerance.

A recent study by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (Shigenaka, 2014) also suggest that the embryo of the eggs from fish or aquatic animal will not survive or mutated after a small fraction of chemical especially oil penetrate their outer layer of skin on eggs. Even the clean-up seems to be helpful, however, this technique poses other threat especially when couple the technique of hot water or chemical removal.

1.2       Purpose of the paper

The primary objective of this article was to understand the root cause of the oil spill in Exxon Valdez and suggest appropriate control measures to prevent a similar event from happening in Malaysia.

1.3       Scope and Limitation

This article only focusing on the literature review document and available report only. The ideas shared probably not represent the real situation things happen during the case but sufficiently justify to provide insight overview of the environmental ethics behind the oil spill tragedy.

Environmental Ethics in Oil Spill Exxon Valdez Occupational Stress Lesson


2.0       Ethical awareness: a history of Alaska oil transportation and dilemma

It's started in 1950, where the bumming of the oil production and use for the transportation industries. In Canada, the main transportation of the oil from the near rig to the country was using the pipeline. In order to meet the demands and efficiently transfer the oil from the rig to the processing and users, the oil was transfer and bring to the mainland in Canada through the seas using oil tankers. This can minimize the risk and also the cost as the pipeline will expose to the extreme Canada weather and permit the efficiency of oil transfer.

The use of tanker, however, face the huge challenger for the oil company to strictly follow the guideline and rules from the coast guard and relevant authorities. To convince the authority and the state regulation, top management had developed details arrangement of the oil transfer using tanker with relevant code and standard practices. This includes the contingency plan for oil spill occurred in the nearby shoreline or associated route through the mainland of Canada (Energy, 2014).

Exxon and related oil companies, manage to convince relevant oil spill contingency plan and the execution of oil transfer through tankers. In early 1980, because of the industrial push and industries pressure, the government permit the use of the tanker for the transportation, however, several issues related to the plan of contingency had not been tested for their efficiency and simulated plan.

The similar pattern observed for many industrial and oil producing country in the transportation of the oil through the tankers, many developing nation like Malaysia, and coastal line offshore facilities utilize the Floating Offloaded technique (Super Tank as storage facilities). The idea was to pre-process the raw oil capture and collected from nearby rig before transfer through huge vessel for specific transfer and use. The FSO believe to be as risk reduction mechanism where the total of oil being held for certain time, permitted the transfer directly from well to the ship in the coastal region. This technique, however, may not apply in Alaska region due to the unpredictable weather condition and the hash extreme cold environment with iceberg play a major threat to the FSO.

2.1       How Exxon Valdez commit disastrous event for the oil spill?

If data was collected through observation, how the observation can provide data? How to use the data with analysis and validation (if necessary)? There are five key that already being address by the National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable root causes of the spill for the Exxon Valdez:

  1. The failure of the third mate to properly maneuver the vessel, possibly due to fatigue and excessive workload;
  2. The failure of the master to provide a proper navigation watch, possibly due to impairment from alcohol;
  3. The failure of Exxon Shipping Company to supervise the master and provide a rested and sufficient crew for the Exxon Valdez;
  4. The failure of the U.S. Coast Guard to provide an effective vessel traffic system;
  5. The lack of effective pilot and escort services.

Based on this five factors, the summary of the outline towards the accidents can be discussed in the following paragraph. In the Exxon Valdez tragedy, no direct human life except four human death recorded associated with the clean-up process during the disaster period. Natural loses was too huge to imagine including the aquatic life, wildlife and aesthetic values of Prince William Sound. During the accident, Captain Hazelwood drinking, and there are common bad practices of the company to push the workers (sailing team) to meet the demand of the oil transportation in such a rush. This leads to the stress of work while handling such risk cargo in the seas.

The pilotage given by Murphy (Pilot) maneuvering the ship without the presence of the Hazelwood (skipper), against the policy of the Exxon require two officers in the bridged during the maneuvering in the narrow channel of Valdes. This indicates the lack of communication from the port authority and the company that leads to the improper maneuvering of the risky vessels. Along the chain of reaction, after pilot departed from the ship around 11.24 PM, skipper take in charge and informed the Vessel Traffic Centre to increase speed and diverted into the separation lane scheme. This separation line scheme provided by the authority to guide the huge vessels to maintain their safe position during challenge maneuvering. Around 11.54 the captain left the bridge with the Third Mate, Cousin (this officer should be with 2nd Officer, LeChain). Only one officer in charge of the maneuverings the ship. This lead to the poor judgment made by the single officer to mitigate or early detecting any mishap during maneuverings the vessels especially with the limited visibility (at night)

Cousin becomes a victim of occupational hazards that lead to human error by the impact of environmental factors such as long work hours, poor work conditions (exposure to toxic fumes during the arrangement of the oil-related chemical during dock operation), monotony and sleep deprivation. Automation that creates manning issues, reduces the manual workload but increase the mental loads of the human.

The accident recorded happening around 12.04 AM and the skipper able to notify the authority for the help. The poor coordination from the Coast Guard which respondent at 12.30 Coast Guard received the distress signal, and activate National Contingency Plan (NCP). The nearby terminal already being notified, but no action was taken appropriately to respond immediately towards the oil spill from Exxon Valdes.

Exxon did not deploy the contingency plan immediately, because assume the response was taken by the state/federal jurisdiction. Action arrive 25 of April 1989 at noon after the accident. During the past few hours, even the NCP activated, no equipment and response can deploy due to the policy which created because state and federal did not have. This situation leads to the disastrous event when the weather already disperses all the oil that spills from the vessel to nearby coastal areas and beaches. During the event, the use of dispersant was controversy this lead to the non – official use of dispersant for the containment of the oil spill from Exxon Valdez. Canada did not participate the Bonn Agreement, which led to the use of dispersant, however, due to lack of communication and proper National Contingency Plan operation (NCP) the dispersant was used. The usage further impact the natural habitat of the marine life and aquatic life (John, Dooley, Heiman, & McClintock, 1990).

Environmental Ethics in Oil Spill Exxon Valdez Occupational Stress Lesson

2.2       Contingency failure of the Exxon Valdes episode

How observation was carried out? Contingency failure of the Exxon Valdes episode

Main ideas of this disaster strike was when the Exxon fail to provide sufficient man-power and resources in mitigating the oil spill in the early occurrence of the accidents. The failure of the government and state laws in preparing the resourceful agencies and plan B approach, come to disasters, where they (government) fully rely on the capacity of the private firm to mitigate the issues (which they created). The National Contingency Plan (NCP) seems to be a normal Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) as a piece of document and not able to be executed. In Exxon Valdes cases, the failure of the backup plan regardless of the support from the company making the disaster permit and widely spread to impacted areas.

By the third day of catastrophic oil spill occurrence, the environmental agencies, government official fail to recover precious moment to contain the issues which then lead to the disasters that majorly impact the wildlife and the aquatic life in the coastal areas. In the first week of the disaster, the miscommunication and directive action of the issues, lead the chaotic version of containment which then spreading the coastal areas into the fishing zone. The help of inter-government agencies like meteorological department fail to collaborate in term of prediction and pre-identified the potential areas that impacted, made this cases become more severe.

The combat of oil spill begin with mismanagement and chaos especially in term of equipment arrangement. Coast Guard and Navy personnel was one of the government agencies that truly helpful in providing assistant in Exxon Valdez oil spill episode. The use of skimmer and dredger that being converted into the skimmer suggest the new approach in emergencies situation to handle such spill in the rough seas. Containment able to protect some hatcheries location near the fisherman village that also able to protect the salmon from the exposure to concentrated oil.

2.3       Community response towards the oil spill

In the midst of managing the spill after 72 hours by the Exxon, the wind and whether took place to impact the nearby shoreline and adjacent areas near the Prince William Sound coastal areas. The oil structure was broken apart and re-join back thus impacted nearby location including fishermen villages and aquaculture that focusing on the salmon fish. Some of the villagers and fishermen was prepared and ready with their boom to contain and segregate the incoming pollutant sea waters. Skimmer also being use to ensure the collected oil will be extracted out. This indicate the willingness of the community to fight against the issues of oil spill occur nearby their areas which can impact their source of income and economy.

Later on, these accidents lead to the community protest towards the Exxon company for the compensation related to the environmental pollution that causes the economy downturn related to poor fishery aspect due to inhabitable condition for the period of time. Based on this issues, the ethics of the company that create hazards to the environment seems very important to ensure the sustainability of the other impacted community towards the activities that generate their own benefit.

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