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ANCHORAGE - The Polar Endeavour, the first double-hulled tanker built for Phillips Alaska, arrived Wednesday at the port of Valdez to take on a load of oil.
The 895-foot tanker was scheduled to head south today to deliver a full load of 1 million barrels of North Slope crude to two San Francisco-area refineries, according to Phillips spokeswoman Dawn Patience.
Double-hulled tankers are a requirement of the federal Oil Pollution Act of 1990, passed after the single-hull Exxon Valdez ran aground and spilled 11 million gallons of oil in Prince William Sound on March 24, 1989, fouling more than 1,000 miles of shoreline.
The so-called Millennium Class tankers are designed specifically to withstand harsh conditions in the Gulf of Alaska, Patience said.
"She's been specifically built for the Alaska trade. The gulf waters are some of the more extreme conditions," she said.
If the outer hull of the tanker is pierced, no oil would be spilled. There is a 10-foot span between the outer hull and the inner hull, and the sides of the ship are separated from its cargo by ballast tanks and empty space. Even if both hulls were compromised, designers expect less oil would be released than with a single-hull tanker.
"It is almost like a second skin around the whole tanker," Patience said.
The tankers, which cost more than $200 million each, also come with two main engine rooms that operate independently, twin propellers and rudders, and the latest in navigational tools.
Phillips plans to replace its existing fleet by adding another double-hulled tanker each year until 2005, when five will be in service.
"These ships will safely transport Alaska crude to our West Coast markets. We plan to maintain our daily Alaska production of 375,000 to 400,000 barrels of oil equivalent for the foreseeable future," Phillips Alaska President Kevin Meyers said in a statement.
Stan Jones, spokesman for the Prince William Sound Regional Advisory Council, an oil-spill watchdog group created by the 1990 law, toured the new tanker Wednesday.
"The performance is everything Phillips said it would be, and of course the double hull makes it the safest possible oil tanker," Jones said.
BP Alaska Exploration has three double-hulled tankers already in service and plans to add three more, beginning in 2003.
Federal law requires that single-hull tankers be phased out by 2015.