Saturday, May 10, 2008

My Shipping Vessel

The titles with 'My' in them started at the very beginning of the project -- it was a conversation about responsibility and ownership. If I say "mine" am I then more connected -- more inclined -- more in control and more responsible...

Today I am focusing on an article from last week by Bruce Stanley in the Wall Street Journal:
"Single-Hull Oil Tankers Persist as Global Risk."

"A key factor in the accident was almost certainly the tanker's design. The Hebei Spirit was a single-hull ship, just like the Exxon Valdez, which spilled 11 million gallons of oil when it ran aground off the Alaskan coast in 1989.

Eight of the 12 worst oil spills to occur world-wide since the beginning of 2001 have involved single-hull vessels -- an older ship design that uses a single layer of steel plates instead of the more-protective double layer that has become the new industry standard. As single-hull tankers haul only 18% of the world's crude, the tankers' role in these disasters is even more disproportionate.

Shipping-industry executives and environmentalists say the Hebei Spirit would have leaked less oil, or none at all, had it been double-hull. Now, in the wake of the accident, South Korea's government is speeding up plans to bar single-hull tankers from its waters."

The single hulled boats were banned from coming to port in the US after the Valdez crash. Still, about 6%, the article says, are single hulled. That seems like a lot -- and also like security isn't really doing the right kinds of checking. Those are big oil boats, aren't they signing some log somewhere?

In Asia, the number is four out of five. Four out of five!

It seems to make sense -- the combination of the continent's growth and desire and the wealth and willingness to put others at risks from the point of view of those who have the power -- the oil in their boats. It's hard to eliminate race from the issue -- though race and money are inextricable in any event.

"Perhaps surprisingly, given its experience with the Exxon Valdez, the oil titan that employs more single-hull tankers than any other is Exxon Mobil. Of the 170 VLCCs that Exxon Mobil sent to Asia last year, one-third were single-hull ships, the company says. About 10% of the VLCCs that the company deployed to North America and Europe in 2007 were single hulls."

I'm remembering, too, what Ben Stein said recently in the NY Times. "Exxon is us."

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