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Investigation into the Exxon Valdez spill by the National Transportation Safety Board identified 4 factors in the crash:

1.      The Third Mate was likely fatigued, and failed to properly maneuver the vessel.

2.      The Captain failed to properly supervise his vessel, and was possibly drunk.

3.      Exxon failed to properly supervise the captain, and provide a rested crew.

4.      The Coast Guard failed to provide an adequate vessel traffic system. Now, satellite monitoring and escort by two pilot vessels instead of one ensures safe passage through the entire Sound. Trained pilots are placed aboard the tankers for 40 kilometers of the 112-kilometer Prince William Sound journey.

In addition to these decisions, many other lessons were learned from the accident.

Exxon, particularly its CEO, were slow to respond to the accident, and tried to downplay its severity, resulting in huge public and political backlash. Today’s companies are quick to respond fully to accidents, and have full disaster-management scenarios in place. Specific spill contingency plans for Prince William Sound must be capable of containing a 47.6 million litres spill, and be drilled every year.

Skimmers and holding barges are in place to retrieve and contain 818,000 barrels of oil if spilled. Dispersants are ready to be deployed on-site.

Single-hulled oil tankers are being phased out, with the switch to double-hulled ships by 2015. A second hull may have reduced the Valdez oil spill by 60%.