On my last two trips to observe oil transfer activities at our own BP Cherry Point facility, I noticed oil transfers without protective booming in place. This was the beginning of my self-education about pre-booming requirements at our local refineries. I looked carefully, with high-power binoculars, took pictures, and the next day I had conversations with the spill prevention staff at the Washington State Department of Ecology.
Last Saturday, I persuaded two of my kayaking pals to go out for another look. The third time is the charm! We observed this vessel – the Overseas Los Angeles. It is owned by OSG (Overseas Shipbuilding Group), the second largest publicly traded tanker company in the world, owners of 124 tankers. In this photo, it is being loaded with diesel, for a distant port, and it has a protective boom surrounding it.
Pre-booming is required by state law as long as conditions are “safe and effective.” I now know that every time a fuel transfer takes place without protective booming, the refinery has to submit a report explaining why pre-booming was not employed. Because of my recent observations, Ecology staff are now scrutinizing past reports. Past reasons for not booming have included high winds, forecasted high winds, an inexperienced weekend crew, and broken equipment. High winds; well, that happens a lot in the Georgia Strait. No booming because of a forecast? I’m not convinced that’s a good reason to have absolutely no protection when transferring crude oil over our water. The weekend crew…is that why we had the big blowout in the Gulf? Broken equipment? That’s a no-brainer. They’re supposed to have backup booming equipment on hand, and they know it.
Let’s put the local refineries on our radar. If you’d like to help us watchdog oil transfers, please let me know – I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org