In the few months, before this writing, there have been 3 major oil
spills caused by tanker accidents. First was the Greek tanker Aegean
Sea that crashed upon rocks near Coruna, Spain. Then a Liberian tanker
went aground off the Shetland Islands. A little over a week later a loaded
tanker collided with an empty tanker in the Malacca Strait that separates
Malaysia and Indonesia. In each case millions of gallons of oil were
spilled in what the capitalist press called "accidents." These were not
accidents, they were the direct result of capitalist greed: maximum profit
with minimum expense Add these 3 spills to the long list of major
- The Torrey Canyon grounded off Land's End, England (119,000
- the Othello in a collision in Tralhavet Bay, Sweden (100,000
- the Sea Star involved in a collision in the Gulf of Oman
(115,000 tons spilled),
- the Urquiola ran aground near La Coruna, Spain (100,000 tons
- fire aboard the Hawaiian Patriot in the northern Pacific
(99,000 tons spilled),
- the Amoco Cadiz ran aground off northwest France (223,000 tons
- the Atlantic Empress and the Aegean Captain collide off
Trinidad (300,000 tons spilled),
- fire aboard the Castillo de Bellver off Cape Town, South Africa
(250,000 tons spilled),
- and the Exxon Valdez run aground in Prince William Sound of
Alaska (11 million gallons spilled). The list of smaller spills is almost
In every case these spills could have been prevented. Do not buy the
lies of educated fools, who first claim that these ships are safe, and
then, when there's an "accident" blame it on some worker. They will always
say, "Everything that can be done is being done," and then say, "the
accident is being looked into so that it will not happen again". These are
just lies to cover up corporate crime. I tell you for a fact that
everything that can be done is NOT being done, and nothing is being looked
into except increased profits. I know, for I have worked on ships for 20
years in both new construction and repair. There is no part of a tanker I
have not worked in. I helped build a sister ship to the Valdez, at
National Steel & Shipbuilding. I can tell you that no ship that sails is
built to be earth-safe. I can also tell you that earth-safe ships can be
built and maintained. What follows is precisely how to do it.
1. Tankers should be built with double hulls. If tankers had double
bottoms and wing tanks with forced ventilation, (because tanks leak and
the fumes from the oil leaked into the double bottom can turn it into a
bomb without forced ventilation) then rupturing a tank would be a lot more
difficult. The double hull would help prevent it from breaking up if it
did run aground.
2. When a tank is ruptured the oil has nowhere to go but into the
ocean. All tankers should run with one empty tank and a pumping system
where the oil from a ruptured tank can be pumped into the empty tank.
Also, most double bottoms have pumping systems, which is used for ballast;
with a little more pipe, and a few valves, in an emergency oil could be
pumped into the double bottom. Then if the oil tank and the double bottom
are both ruptured, the same pumping system can pump the oil into the empty
tank before it reaches the ocean. Each tank is separated, and each double
bottom and wing tank is also separated.
3. Tanks should be made smaller. Most tanks on oil tankers are 80 feet
by 80 feet by 80 feet; some are even larger. Smaller tanks mean less oil
to deal with in a rupture. When a tanker runs aground in high seas the
stress often causes the tanker to break up. With smaller tanks the ship's
structure is stronger.
4. Super tankers should not be permitted on the seas. They are so long
that just the stress of sailing the high seas can cause cracks in the
5. Tankers should carry oil containment equipment on them. By this I
mean enough booms to circle the ship two times, and two small boats to set
the booms. The main reason oil slicks get large is that by the time oil
containment equipment gets to a spill it is often too late.
6. All ships should be equipped with proper sonar, radar, and warning
beacons. No ship should ever run into another ship, or ever run
7. All coastlines, rocks, islands, should have warning beacons; and
warning buoys that set off an alarm on a ship before it goes into
8. Special pilots should go on board to take ships into inlets,
rivers, sounds and other such places -- when a ship goes up the
Mississippi river, a special pilot boards at the mouth of the river.
9. No ship should be forced to sail in excessively bad weather. There
are times when it's unavoidable because the bad weather is not known about
until it is too late. But for the most part the weather conditions are
known in advance. They will risk the ship, the workers on it and the
environment because the shipping bosses want to meet a schedule.
10. No ships should carry excessive amounts of fuel. The more fuel a
ship carries, the more it will spill. Fishing ships are the worst about
this. One went down off the coast of Washington and its fuel-fouled
beaches from Vancouver Island to northern Oregon. Many of these ships
carry enough fuel to sail months at a time; there is no need of this, they
can pull into port and refuel.
11. Ships' crews should not be forced to work more than 8 hours.
Fatigue always makes for a dangerous work environment. There are many who
mistakenly think that the 8-hour day was won long ago in the US but it has
never been won in the transportation industry. Maritime, truck drivers,
railroad and airline workers are all pushed far beyond any safe limits;
then when something happens the bosses blame it on the workers. On ships,
the most I was ever forced to work was 2I hours in one day; the most in a
week was 96 hours, and the longest I ever went without a day off was three
and a half months. l have gotten so tired on the job that I fell asleep
12. All ships should have experienced construction and repair workers.
These workers should receive good pay, for if you pay your workers
chickenfeed, you will have a high turnover, and thus less experienced
workers. These workers should also get reasonable paid time off -- burnout
is another reason for high turnover and poor work. The maritime bosses
will pick countries with the lowest wages, and fewest safety and
environmental standards for this work, thus allowing for substandard work
and polluting the environment.
13. All ships should have experienced and well trained crews. There
should be an end to "flags of convenience" ships. On paper, Liberia has
the biggest merchant marine in the world; this is because they let the
maritime bosses flag ships there to avoid unions, safety standards,
environmental protection, and inspections. The bosses find workers in
different parts of the world who are forced to work for low wages and in
bad conditions, and they can sail these Liberian registered ships far
longer then they should, with fewer repairs.
14. All ships should be built with the highest safety and
environmental standards. To cut costs and to meet deadlines corners are
cut, and when a worker is forced to do bad work, there is nowhere to
report it without risking losing his or her job.
15. Repair and maintenance should not be put off to meet schedules or
make it back to their repair port. Many ships sail back and forth from the
same ports. Ships should be inspected and repaired in both ports.
16. All fuel tanks should be above the waterline, protected by a
surrounding, ventilated void a good distance from the engine room.
17. All lines for flammable liquids should have accessible,
triple-valve protection. All other tanks should have double-valve
protection. All overboard below the waterline should have triple-valve
18. No ship should discharge sewage, bilge water, ballast water or any
other hazardous liquids into the water. All ships should have holding
tanks for this waste and each port should have facilities.
19. Eliminate customs laws that force ships to dump at sea.
20. All ships should be made to keep engine rooms, uptakes and unused
tanks clean and free of grease. I was in one ship fire that started in a
grease filled ventilation uptake at the bottom level of the engine room
and in less than ten minutes flames were leaping ten feet out the
smokestack. We only made it out because the fire doors did not work. On
some ships fire doors close automatically, sometimes trapping workers
I am not a scientist. I cannot tell you how much pollution the oceans
can take. I am just a radical environmentalist worker who does not trust
the "experts" and believes that oceans can be damaged and should not have
to take any human pollution. The above steps to earth-safe ships would
greatly increase the safety of workers and the environment, but I am a
realist; worker and environmental safety will not be a goal of society
until we put an end to production for profit and change industry to the
production of well-being for all -- including Mother Earth.