The Exxon Valdez - What You Don't Know
I will tell you my short version of why the Exxon Valdez went aground. This story was also confirmed to me via another radio operator and also from the personal testimony of a guy who sailed on the Exxon Baton Rouge. Also for about 2 years after the accident happened I continued to get the same report from other people that I sailed on the ships with. I worked as a radio operator on merchant tankers between 1987 and 1995.
This story is really more about Exxon's political correctness than anything else. Exxon was the first company to start putting a lot of women on ships. Exxon thought they could run their merchant ship fleet like any other business in society. Also it was Exxon's policy to promote from within. Gregory Cousins (3rd Mate on watch when the ship grounded) did not go to one of the martime schools that about 98% of mates do. He worked his way up from the crew and eventually got his license. The crew never quite assumes the amount of responsibility the officers do, and even when they sail as an officer they never really get the "crew mentality" out of them. There was a good looking female AB (able bodied seaman) who was on the bridge wing lookout the night they left. Cousins (the 3rd mate) was always trying to "get in her pants" for lack of a better way to describe it. Eventually the pilot got off the ship (which means you have clear sailing in the shipping channel) and the captain went down below to send some departure messages. I saw this routine over and over on the ships I worked on. When the pilot got off, the captain went down below to send messages.
Before the captain went below he orders the Exxon Valdez to make a turn to avoid hitting some sea ice that has formed ahead of them. The captain assumes that cousins will have no trouble making a simple turn back into the shipping lane once they are clear of the ice. The female lookout tells Cousins twice that he somehow has managed to get on the wrong side of the sea buoy and that they are out of the shipping lane. This female AB must of been pretty sharp and she also had a 3rd Mate's liceanse but was sailing as an AB. Cousins, trying to impress her and act like he has everything under control, does not immediately call the captain to the bridge. This is a huge departure from protocol. Whenever any mate on the bridge has trouble they immediately order the captain to the bridge to be there with them even if they have to wake them up in the middle of the night. Captains expect this and insist on it in their standing orders. By the time Cousins panics, it is too late. So the fault is just about all with Cousins. The amazing thing is that Hazlewood took all the blame and somehow the media's perception was that Hazlewood must of been drunk and that is why it happened.
Also this would not have happened if Exxon had done things the traditional way they are done at sea--all male crew and officers and have only mates and Captains that have attended one of the 4-year maritime schools. Exxon was considered to be the cream of the crop for getting a job on a merchant ship. They could of gotten only the best people. Instead they make a huge error in judgement IMHO, and put women on ships (and I don't mean women are necessarily incompetent but they are a distraction to wild & crazy merchant seaman) and officers who were formally of the crew. I have never been on a ship where there was a woman (especially if she is attractive) where fights did not break out over her and she was a major distraction on the ship. The Exxon Valdez was kind of a symptom of our society's humanistic thinking about equality in my opinion. It's the thinking that says women should have access to every domain that men do--fire fighters, police, airline pilots, etc. We somehow can't bring oursevles to admit that in some situations an all male group is better than mixed company. In my opinion Exxon was the first company to "get what it deserved" for embracing some of these stupid politically correct misconceptions about equality.
I wouldn't be a bit surprised if cousins himself was smoked up when they left that night. I have no knowledge of that whatsoever--it is just a guess. The crew did frequently smoke pot on some ships. I even went with the guys one time when they went out in St. Croix to score a bag of pot. I didn't know that's what they were going to do, and I just went to get off the ship.
The grounding of the Exxon Valdez marked the beginning of massive drug testing in American industry. Isn't it ironic that the problem was attributed by the press to Hazelwood's drinking problem, yet American industry choose to do drug testing? Maybe we are not being told everything there was to know about Cousins. Or maybe American industry just wanted to protect themselves against massive liability suites and saw drug testing as a way to do that.
Well there is the Exxon Valdez story in more detail. Excellent book on shipping disasters if your interested--Disasters at Sea, Titanic to Exxon Valdez by Richard A. Cahill. Very insightful and goes into detail about why the accidents actually happened instead of just what happened. The publisher is in Austin.
Well, that's about it. I don't dispute the facts I just tell more detail that is really inside info that you will never hear in the press. Exxon Shipping Management in Texas was a bunch of young PC college guys who thought you could run a merchant tanker business by the same politically correct misconceptions about what equality really means in our society at large. That is that women should have access to every job and every title that is male--and even be encouraged to take those jobs. And, that it just wasn't fair that officers have to be college graduates of a maritime school. Members of the crew were encouraged to take the officers jobs even if good qualified individuals from the maritime schools were avilable--and they were. Also Exxon was not a part of any shipping union. So no union could dictate to them who to hire. All of the crewing decisions were made by Exxon, so they have no one to blame but themselves for the way they ran the ships. It cost Exxon dearly. They got rid of all their ships and put them under Red River Shipping shortly after that. I don't know if Red River Shipping still exist, but they chartered all their ships. This way they were not liable if something like this happened. It's not a bad idea considering they apparently didn't have people in the office who really knew the merchant shipping industry which is a unique industry. Or if they did have experienced people, then somewhere from up higher these people were being told to run the ships in the same manner that most CEO's run companies ashore. U.S. companies have been indoctrinated by our government with "fairness" and opportunity for all. Don't get me started on outrageous CEO pay. That's another subject.