It’s evening and the Exxon Valdez supertanker is leaving the Alyeska Pipeline terminal in Alaska. The supertanker is carrying nearly 1.3 million barrels of crude oil. The waters are icy and the captain decides to sail outside the shipping lane to avoid the ice. He leaves the bridge and puts the third mate in charge. The man who is left alone makes an incorrect manoeuvre because he is overworked and tired. Not until it is too late does he discover that the ship is headed for the shallow Bligh Reef. Just past midnight, the supertanker runs aground with massive force, ripping parts of the hull. Mere hours later, the U.S. Coast Guard approaches the Exxon Valdez through a sea covered in thick oil. Once on board, they quickly estimated how much crude oil had already leaked out. The number they arrived at was daunting. Before six in the morning on the day of the accident, nine million barrels of oil had already leaked into the sea. The final count ended up at 11 million barrels. One of the largest oil spills in history was a fact.

“ The accident had huge consequences due to the massive spill in a highly vulnerable environment. Difficult weather conditions, geographic location and what turned out to be poor emergency preparedness, led to the extensive spread of oil and major ecological consequences,” says CEO Ann-Helen Ernstsen at the Norwegian Centre for Oil Spill Preparedness and Marine Environment.