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The dance of tugs docking tankers in Port Valdez

On a recent morning, the tug Stalwart pulled away from the SERVS dock, headed out to meet the tanker Alaska Legend as it entered Port Valdez. A dense fog hung over the port and every few minutes, foghorns called out in the distance.

Looking out at the pea soup, Captain David Sweeney remarked that he'd take his time crossing the bay.

"We’re not in a rush," he said, "and it's a good idea to slow down in the fog."

Much has been written about the five world-class and purpose-built escort tugs in Prince William Sound, owned by Crowley and under contract to SERVS. With 10,192 horsepower engines and rapid response capabilities, these vessels are the show horses of SERVS' fleet, and rightfully so. Introduced in 1999 and 2000, the three Prevention and Response Tugs (PRTs) and the two Enhanced Tractor Tugs (ETTs) have revolutionized tanker escorts in the Sound.

But there are other tugs in Valdez, like the Invader-class Stalwart, that support SERVS' mission as well. They are also owned by Crowley and move response barges and personnel as needed. And, like today, they help tankers safely dock at the Valdez Marine Terminal.

Docking a tanker is a routine job for one of these tugs.

"Pretty simple if you know how to do it," said Sweeney, as he pulled up alongside the Legend. "A little challenging for a new captain."

For this docking, the Stalwart is located near the starboard bow of the Legend. The fog has already burned off, and we can see the tug Bulwark at mid-ship and the Alert aft. Crews from the tanker throw messenger lines from above, eventually leading larger working lines – the circumference of a baseball – through the bullring on the bow before it is made up on deck. The Legend is going to berth on its port side, requiring a U-turn up Port Valdez. The tugs are along for the ride as the tanker glides past the terminal, but as the vessel begins to make its right-hand turn, the tugs' engines engage.

"Right now, the engines aren’t really pulling or pushing, they're kind of twisting the tanker into place," explains Sweeney.

Soon enough, the tanker nears the berth. Over the radio, a calm voice offers a slew of directions for each tug.

"Bulwark, touch down." (get ready to push)

"Alert, push."

"Stalwart, stretch" (get ready to pull)

"Stalwart, back." (pull)

Slowly and noisily, the tanker gets nudged and tugged into place.

Captain Sweeney directs the Stalwart's line boats, the Gus-E and Roger, to tie up the lines to the mooring dolphins at the berth. Soon, a SERVS boom boat will appear to encircle the tanker with boom before it can load crude oil.

A voice comes through on the radio: "Thanks, gentlemen," says the pilot. "That was fun."

TAPS TALKS videos debut with "Legacy In Our Hands"

Alyeska President Thomas Barrett was recently featured in a video that was developed to inspire staff participating in a frontline leadership development class. The video, "TAPS TALKS: Legacy In Our Hands," features Barrett sharing his experiences and thoughts on leadership and the legacy of TAPS. Since debuting with the leadership development class, the video has gone viral in a sense -- it was posted for all TAPS staff to view on Alyeska's intranet and is now being shared externally to Alyeska's partners, stakeholders and the public.

The video is the first in a series of TAPS TALKS that will feature TAPS employees discussing Alyeska's Cultural Attributes and company values, the pipeline's history, personal stories about working on TAPS, and more.

Click here to watch "TAPS TALKS: Legacy In Our Hands".

Alyeska volunteers keep special Thanksgiving tradition alive

Every Thanksgiving season, Alyeska employees are thankful for opportunities to give back to those in our communities. For the past 17 years, Anchorage-based Alyeska employees have visited Russian Jack Elementary to supply and serve Thanksgiving meals to students and staff. It's an event that Alyeska employees and the school’s students and staff look forward to every year.

This year, 21 Alyeska staff volunteers served Thanksgiving standards like turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, buns, pumpkin pie and other fixings to more than 500 Russian Jack students and faculty. For some of the school's students, this is the only Thanksgiving meal they will have this year. A few students mentioned that they had never eaten turkey or dressing before.

Many Alyeska volunteers sign up for this event every year; all are excited about the chance to serve and chat with the excited children. The students shared their appreciation by giving huge thank you banners and cards, and even a few thank you cheers, to the volunteers.

"We love all the students and faculty at Russian Jack Elementary," explained Patti Altom, Alyeska's longtime Senior Communications Assistant who helps organize the event. "This has been a great partnership for the students and for our employees."

Alyeska's Anchorage staff has a long partnership with Russian Jack Elementary School, dating back to when our offices were located in East Anchorage near the school. Alyeska's offices have moved a couple times over the years, but the relationship continues today as Alyeska employees visit the school to read to students, and standout students visit Alyeska's offices quarterly to learn about our work and their future career opportunities.

Commendable cleanup efforts in Valdez

This year, TAPS employees working on projects at the Valdez Marine Terminal went above and beyond in their efforts to protect the environment. The 2014 project work generated and removed a record amount of waste and recyclable metals -- nearly 2.8 million pounds!

The cleaning work included:

* Five crude tanks

* One biological treatment tank

* 4,036 feet of ballast water piping

* 4,072 feet of vapor piping

* 35 truck loads of reyclable metals

In addition, one recovered crude tank was demolished and a significant amount of spent abrasive was bagged and sent for disposal. All activities took place without a significant spill or release to the environment.

"Environmental performance was a huge task for the VMT Projects organization in 2014," explained Kent Peterson, area project manager for the Valdez Marine Terminal. "I am very proud of the entire VMT Projects organization, APSC Environmental Coordinators, and TAPS Contractors who supported this work. They did an outstanding job getting the material containerized, labeled, tested and sent out to its final disposal site."

This work embodies TAPS employees acting with discipline to ensure waste and other materials are handled safely to protect people and the environment.

TAPS employees fuel United Way giving

This year, the Alyeska United Way campaign theme is Drive Change. Driving change means investing in community goals that lead to a better life for all.

Alyeska employees and contractors set a campaign goal of $610,000 and are well on their way. They revved up their engines, gave donations, volunteered services and advocated to make a difference in our Alaska communities.

"Companies like Alyeska and the people we depend on everyday embody the generous support and volunteer efforts needed to drive lasting change," said Tabetha Toloff, Alaska Native Program Director, co-chair of this year's Alyeska companywide campaign. "We engage our TAPS workforce by sponsoring fun events intended to raise support for a shared goal. We can all play a role in creating a more united community. So let's drive change together!"

The Alyeska United Way campaign supports driving change through Giving United Support. G.U.S. the Giving Pig was launched from Pump Station 1 and is traveling the pipeline to Valdez encouraging United Way giving along the way.

The campaign was set to wrap up on October 31.

TAPS employees complete 2014 shutdown work

Alyeska Pipeline Service Company crews have wrapped up a summer's worth of major maintenance shutdowns on the Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS. “Alyeska maintains the pipeline as part of our commitment to the continued integrity and long-term viability of TAPS,” said Senior Director for Pipeline Operations John Baldridge. “We planned the work for months, using an extremely thoughtful and disciplined process.” Alyeska, the pipeline operator, completed various projects during the scheduled shutdowns, including work at pump stations, testing on mainline valves, and projects at the Valdez Marine Terminal. Shutdowns range from 6 to 24 hours in length, depending on the work. Alyeska conducts pipeline system shutdowns to conduct projects and maintenance that can only be done while the pipeline isn’t in its regular operating state. This allows crews time to work on projects simultaneously along the pipeline and at the Valdez Marine Terminal. A successful shutdown involves a majority of the TAPS organization and months of thorough preparation and coordination between field locations and the Operations Control

Yukon Responder

The Yukon Responder is Alyeska’s newest oil spill response vessel and it is a beast with a 34-foot hull, 12-foot beam, twin Yamaha 250hp outboard motors, 300-gallon fuel tank, seating for 12, and a weight capacity of 7,000 lbs. This vessel is different from other TAPS response vessels in that it is a twin screw catamaran, specifically designed for river response but fully capable of operating in Prince William Sound.

“Yukon River is an iconic Alaska river, and it requires an icon response vessel,” said Earl Rose, Oil Spill Coordinator for Alyeska, during the christening ceremony on the Yukon River. Present for the christening was Tom Barrett, President of Alyeska, who lauded Alyeska’s Vessel Operating Committee (VOC) for successfully designing the Yukon Responder and integrating it with the TAPS response fleet.

The christening occurred during an exercise where operators completed 8 engine hours of hands-on training with the Yukon Responder, consisting of deep and shallow water maneuvers, anchoring, engine failure, refueling, towing, man overboard and rescue, operating with a loaded deck and beach landings.

“The advanced training is required of operators because it significantly increases safety and mitigates risk on the water,” Rose said. “Responders acquire a better understanding of river hydrology which helps with oil spill tactics and it reinforces and enhances field leadership.”

Yukon Responder has the capacity to carry the equivalent of a 2015 Yukon Denali SUV. But one of its most remarkable custom-built features is the capability to refuel other vessels. The 300-gallon fuel tank is not only used to power its 500hp propulsion but also to provide refueling of other vessels, which is unprecedented functionality for TAPS oil spill response.

Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) joined the christening and the exercise where the Yukon Responder successfully refueled a separate response vessel. ADEC’s Elizabeth Stergiou was impressed and said, “The Yukon Responder’s underway refueling system is incredible.” Stergiou rode along for the refueling and participated in the transfer. “The underway refueling on the water seemed much more stable than an on-shore refueling.”

Also present for the christening was Doyon Ltd. vice president of administration, Geri Simon. Doyon Ltd. is the Alaska Native regional corporation for Interior Alaska and a valued partner and stakeholder in TAPS. Right before Simon christened the vessel with a bottle of Martinelli’s sparkling cider, she expressed appreciation for the care and concern given to oil spill response. “Alyeska continues to demonstrate its commitment to the partnership with the village response teams in protecting the subsistence areas along the pipeline corridor,” Simon said.

Alyeska VOC co-chairs Earl Rose and Ben Pennington and committee members Milton Moses, Fred Bethune and Larry Nutter are hard at work on the Copper Responder, a twin-engine 36-foot airboat landing craft, that is set to arrive on scene spring 2015. In terms of power and versatility, Yukon Responder is the Incredible Hulk where the Copper Responder will be like Iron Man.

No Task Is Routine, 18 years without an incident

Imagine 18 years – that’s more than 6,500 days – doing a job that requires hauling boxes and materials, driving forklifts, working with sharp objects and giant loads, and directing a steady flow of equipment-laden machinery.

Now imagine doing it without a single incident or recordable injury.

The crew at the Alyeska Central Warehouse in Fairbanks doesn’t have to imagine it. This is their reality: for more than 18 years, the materials team has operated without a recordable incident, an exceptional accomplishment given the rate for fatal injury in the warehousing industry is higher than the national average for all industries, according to Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).

“Regardless the task or project, the equipment and material used by TAPS employees for pipeline operation go through the warehouse,” said Dennis Stacy, Alyeska’s Inventory Control Coordinator. “The men and women in our warehouses have a remarkable record for placing and filling orders safely and accurately.”

Alyeska warehouses are responsible for managing a variety of supplies, ranging from chapstick worth less than $2 to spare parts for turbine generators worth more than $2 million. The core mission of the Alyeska Central Warehouse (ACW) is to safely and efficiently receive, store and transport supplies for TAPS maintenance and ongoing operation.

As implied by ACW’s motto, no task is routine, safety is embedded in the warehouse workflow, and in large part that is due to the thoughtful and unique approach to maintaining a fresh perspective on safety and situational awareness. When ACW personnel discuss how to safely lift a box, there is a demonstration and everyone participates.

In a recent ACW safety meeting where the construction of a new mezzanine was the focus, staff split into teams to design and construct an egg parachute. The winner, of course, was the team whose egg survived the fall. The intent of the exercise was to emphasize the newly installed stairs and mezzanine and to be aware of the possible danger.

ACW models an exemplary attitude and acts with discipline and commitment to overcome challenges. ACW recently consolidated 3,900 line items of material into a newly renovated space. Each item was moved to allow for construction, then moved back once construction was complete.
“Not a single piece of material was misplaced nor was there a single recordable incident,” Stacy said. “That’s precision and professionalism at its best.”

Over the last five years, Alyeska warehouses, including Fairbanks and Valdez, have received 373,000 pieces of material at 63 million pounds, and shipped 367,000 pieces at 61 million pounds, for a combined total of approximately 124 million pounds of material. For perspective in weight, that is equivalent to shipping and receiving 402,000 barrels of crude over five years, without a single spill.

President’s Message

Alyeska has an industry-leading safety record that we are always looking to improve. Recently we met and talked with our employees about ways to reach our goal of zero injuries, nobody gets hurt. One of the areas our workers felt we should emphasize more is “acting with discipline.”

From our pump stations to Valdez to Anchorage to Fairbanks, feedback was consistent: acting with discipline at Alyeska Pipeline Service Company means doing the right thing, all the time, every time. It’s about staying safe personally and keeping our coworkers safe. At the end of a shift, we want to know that we dedicated focus, commitment and pride to all of our work.

This edition of our newsletter captures some thoughts about this vigilance.

Acting with discipline is how our warehouse team in Fairbanks has logged 18 years of hard work without a serious injury.

Acting with discipline is how someone like 39-year employee Darrel “Murph” Murphy logged more than 1.6 million miles driving for TAPS without a safety incident.

On TAPS, we are at our best when we act with discipline: working with a focus on safety, fully committed to nobody getting hurt, and delivering excellence with pride.

Driving Excellence: Darrel “Murph” Murphy

I started working on the pipeline on March 5, 1975 for Wackenhut Security, so I have 39 years on TAPS.

I have driven around 1,600,000 miles on TAPS. The majority of these miles have been logged while working as a Security Courier. Security has provided daily courier service on TAPS for approximately twenty-five years. During that period, security couriers have serviced the following areas: Pump Station 1 to Pump Station 4; Fairbanks to Pump Station 4; Fairbanks to Valdez; and Fairbanks in town courier. Due to budget cuts, the only courier service functioning at the present time is from Fairbanks to Pump Station 4 and returning. The courier position is responsible for hauling people, mail, newspapers, “Hot” parts, normal parts and freight to ensure the daily operations of the pipeline continues without shut down. This position is very important to the operational needs of the pipeline as well as to the morale of the TAPS workers. Everyone likes to get to their work location and receive a newspaper and mail from family and friends on a daily basis.

Having the proper equipment to do the task at hand is one of the major reasons things are done in a safe manner. During construction of the pipeline and through most of the 1980’s safety was not stressed like it has been the last twenty-five years. The slogan back then was more like “Getter done whatever it takes” compared to the present slogan of “Get it done, if it can be done safely”.  Having new vehicles with the necessary equipment to perform the mission in a safe manner is the starting point of being a safe driver. After the proper equipment it is then up to the driver to perform the driving part in a safe manner. We all know what this entails prior to getting behind the wheel and departing on every trip. SPSA and Journey Management evaluations are a must. Next, you have to get the latest road condition report for the area you are traveling in and to. Weather is probably one of the most important factors all drivers should be aware of. The 365 miles between Fairbanks and Pump Station 4 will have many different changes throughout the day and you need to be aware of all of them to have a safe journey. 

Unfortunately, not all travelers on the haul road share the same safety concerns as those working on TAPS. A number of truckers are concerned about hurrying to their next location. They are not making money if their truck is not moving. There are a number of people, some TAPS employees, but mostly tourists that are driving the haul road for the first time. Most of these individuals will feel comfortable with taking up their lane and a part of your lane and will have tunnel vision. This is where slowing down and pulling over when meeting oncoming traffic pays off.

The one thing that you need to do when driving the haul road is to be thinking ahead. Although you may know the road well, you still have to think about what you might find around the next curve or over the next hill. Tourists will stop anywhere on the road to get that picture of a lifetime and truckers or others can breakdown anywhere. You can drive the haul road every day but the haul road is never the same. Weather and Alaska Department of Transportation maintenance can change the conditions on the haul road from one hour to the next.

My motivation for staying safe is very simple and is two-fold. First, and most important of all, is returning home to my family safe after each trip. Second, I want to complete each trip safely so that I do not lose my job.

There are a number of experiences that I have had over the years, but since this is pertaining to safety I will just keep it geared towards safety. In the late 1970’s when the Haul Road was first built, the road was very narrow. There are still areas of the old road between Fairbanks and Pump Station 6 that show just how narrow the road really was back in those days. Driving back then, you literally had to slow down and practically come to a stop to pass an oncoming vehicle. Numerous side mirrors were broken passing oncoming vehicles. Thank goodness those days are behind us.

The best memories are when you have the chance to help someone that is broke down or in need of medical assistance.  Unfortunately these opportunities happen more than one would like to have happen.

There are a number of areas that are special between Fairbanks and Pump Station 4. Of course, the time of the year also plays a part in my decision. My favorite time of the year for driving the Haul Road is in the summer time, and I enjoy the stretch of road between Coldfoot and Pump Station 4 the most.

As far as any other ideas I might have on driving safely I have just one thought I would like to include. I do think it is kind of comical that Hollywood decided to make a reality television show on driving the very dangerous Dalton Highway. Ice Road Truckers has been a big hit across America. Many people have made lots of money as a result of this show. People around the world have had a small taste of the challenges drivers face on the Haul Road.  People working on TAPS have done this for years and will continue to do this for years to come. We don’t have camera crews nor do we have scripts to follow to make the drive easier or safer. As the saying goes, at the end of the day, hopefully we have checked our equipment before departure, went over our pre-trip check list, used common sense, followed the traffic laws, remained alert, and with a great deal of LUCK, reached our final destination for the day…..SAFELY.  No two days on the haul road are alike, and each day I return home safely I know I have been blessed.

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