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RENAMED VALDEZ WILL SAIL SOON - BUT THIS TIME ONLY IN FOREIGN WATERS

SHARE RENAMED VALDEZ WILL SAIL SOON - BUT THIS TIME ONLY IN FOREIGN WATERS

The refurbished Exxon Valdez, responsible for the largest oil spill in U.S. history, has been renamed the Exxon Mediterranean and will begin operating again next month, but only in foreign waters.

The 987-foot tanker has been completely restored after a nine-month $30 million repair job that replaced one-third of the ship's hull, ripped open when it ran aground in Alaskan waters in March 1989, Gus Elmer, president of Exxon Shipping Co. said Friday.The tanker's notoriety, Elmer said, had nothing to do with the Exxon Corp. subsidiary's decision to use the ship overseas rather than in domestic waters.

"Due to declining Alaskan crude oil transportation requirements, the vessel will enter foreign service, most likely loading crude in the Mediterranean or the Middle East," he said.

"Consistent with (Exxon's) normal practice of naming vessels for the primary area of operation, the ship will be renamed the Exxon Mediterranean," he added.

Elmer also said that, because of the ship's size, "it can only enter two West Coast ports, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and then only when light-loaded."

The Exxon Mediterranean will be U.S.-flagged and will have a U.S. crew.

It will be taken out of dry dock around July 20 and will undergo tests off the coast of San Diego to establish its seaworthiness, Elmer said.

"There will be 10 to 12 or possibly 14 days of sea trials," he said. "The ship has been out of service for a long time. We'll be checking everything: navigation, engine room, computers."

The ship, built in 1988, spewed 11 million gallons of Alaskan crude oil into Prince William Sound when it ran onto a reef while headed out to sea, creating the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.