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Sunday, November 14, 2021

The Exxon Valdez Gets Its Death Sentence

The artist tanker formerly known as the Exxon Valdez has gotten its death sentence. It has been sold for scrap for about $16 million.

The tanker, which was only a shiny new three year old in 1989 when it slammed into Bligh Reef, causing devastation of people, marine life, and the economy in Prince William Sound, has had an odd history which is almost at an end. The Dallas Morning News reports:

Twenty-three years after the oil supertanker became synonymous with what its Irving-based owner at the time calls “one of the lowest points in ExxonMobil’s 125-year history,” the ship is slated for the scrap heap.

ONE of the lowest points? Sorry, but not too many others readily spring to mind.

Nautical superstition is generally taken seriously by anyone who spends much time on the sea. The ocean is big, powerful, and fickle. We are small, fragile, and only float for a limited amount of time. You can’t be too careful. If you doubt the seriousness of this, the next time you go halibut fishing with a bunch of people in Alaska, pull a banana out of your sack lunch. Go ahead. Try it.

But even more serious than the threat of the entire boat getting skunked on a halibut charter, is changing the name of a boat. The rule is – don’t. Ever. And if you do, things will go wrong. Very wrong.

What, you may ask, is worse than slamming into a reef and dumping millions of gallons of crude oil into a beautiful and pristine water body?  What are we clinging to, here?  Good point. And this may have been justification for changing the name once.  But the cursed tanker got not just one name change, but SIX!

According to legend, each and every vessel is recorded by name in the Ledger of the Deep and is known personally to Poseidon, or Neptune, the god of the sea. It is logical therefore, if we wish to change the name of our boat, the first thing we must do is to purge its name from the Ledger of the Deep and from Poseidon’s memory.

I’m just guessing here, but unless the God of the Sea has Alzheimer’s, the Exxon Valdez is not one he’s likely to forget. Thanks to that little pain-in-the-ass, he’s still got a floor covered with dispersants, and oil, and is looking unsuccessfully for a whole lot of missing herring.

After the spill, when the Exxon Valdez got hauled out of Prince William Sound to San Diego, and subsequently to Europe after repairs, it became the Exxon Mediterranean. Then it became the Sea River Mediterranean. Then the S/R Mediterranean, which was still too long apparently, and shortened again to just the Mediterranean.

The naming rapidly went down hill.

The Mediterranean was sold and became an ore carrier, named the Dong Fang Ocean. Neptune was not amused. The Dong Fang Ocean went back to its old habit of crashing into things, and collided with a cargo ship named the Aali. After that little fiasco, the vessel was taken to Shandong Province in China where it received yet another new and unfortunate name – The Oriental Nicety – of which it is neither.  The Accidental Atrocity would have been more fitting, but alas I am not on the nomenclature committee.

And now the nightmare with six names has been sold for scrap. Good riddance.


Read more here:



12 Responses to “The Exxon Valdez Gets Its Death Sentence”
  1. mike from iowa says:

    According to reports the Oriental Nicety is headed for sick bay in India where harvestable organs will be removed for transplant in other sick vessels,so maybe the curse will live on.

  2. Zyxomma says:

    There’s no new open thread, so please go to (or toward) the end of the last one for a link to submit comments to the FDA regarding genetically modified food, which currently requires NO labeling. Thanks.

  3. jwa says:

    AND, don’t forget the (fictional) role it played as the base for the baddies in that cinematic masterpiece – Waterworld

  4. AHiredGun says:

    I saw the Exxon Valdez when it was in San Diego. For all the grief it caused in Alaska, I remember thinking that the ship did not appear to be that big and, psychologically, I thought the ship would have been much larger in size than it actually was.

    • GoI3ig says:

      I went aboard the Exxon Valdez in 1989 during the recovery phase of the oil spill. The ship is plenty large. It spilled approximately 10 million gallons of crude, give or take a million. That was only a portion of what was on board.

      Certainly, there are larger tankers, but anything that can spill 10 million gallons meets my definition of large.

  5. Zyxomma says:

    Let us not forget that it was Exxon’s ship, but BP’s oil. Corporate malfeasance on a grand scale, and still going on planet-wide. Here’s more, from the world’s largest retailer:

    I sympathize with everyone who has nowhere else to shop, but I’m glad I live in a city where Walmart is far away, and mom’n’pop stores are still open.

  6. Alaska Pi says:

    not an accidental anything though
    was always a question of “when and which ship?” with the failure of those who were our eyes and hands in protecting our waters to stay alert…

  7. Writing from Alaska says:

    Well, that was an interesting history! I had no idea the ship was still active anywhere!

  8. John says:

    there are procedures for changing a ship’s name, but I doubt Exxon followed them.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] Named and gendered, boats take on identities independent of the captains who come and go. They’re sized up and judged, bestowed with reputations that can’t be absolved with a change in ownership or a new name. So what  was the fate of the ship forever shackled to one of the most devastating human-caused environmental disasters? The Mudflats blog answered that question earlier this week:  “The Exxon Valdez Gets Its Death Sentence.” […]

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