Politicians push for mandatory escort of oil tankers

The Alaska congressional delegation says it is pushing legislation that would require loaded oil tankers to be escorted by at least two vessels that can tow them away from trouble as they sail through Prince William Sound.
Congress authorized the current escort rules in 1990 as part of the reforms written after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in the Sound a year earlier. The Exxon Valdez had just a single hull. Congress required that single-hull tankers get the escort tugs. Another reform was to retire all the single-hull tankers over time and replace them with safer double-hull ships.
The last single-hull tanker will be retired from service in 2012. Almost all Alaska oil is shipped through the Sound now on double-hulled tankers, and the practice has been to escort them out of Valdez.
Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich on Thursday introduced legislation that would require the loaded double-hull tankers to be escorted, making the current practice federal law.
"While I recognize that double-hulled tankers are an improvement over single hulls, they will not, by themselves, prevent oil spills," said Murkowski, a Republican.
"The dual escort coverage of tankers operating in Prince William Sound has helped ensure we have the best oil transportation system in the world," said Begich, a Democrat. "The tractor tugs have proved their usefulness several times when tankers needed assistance."
Rep. Don Young is working on a House version of the proposal, the delegation said.