Map collection

29 April 2020

Title: Finding Refuge in Prince William Sound
Author: Harrison Cole, Penn State University,
Keywords: #oil_tankers, #maritime_transport, #wildlife, #Alaska
Data sources:, BOEM, NOAA (marine vessel positions and compass rose); Alaska State Geo-Spatial Data Clearinghouse (land borders); Alaska DEC Division of Spill Prevention and Response, PPOR Workgroup (PPOR locations); NOAA NOS Office of Response and Restoration (Environmentally Sensitive Index data); U.S. NPS, Alaska DOT, Alaska DNR, Chugachmiut (contextual information)
PNG - 2.2 MiB

In light of the catastrophic Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, a working group was assembled in 2004 to designate various docks, moorings, groundings and anchorages in Prince William Sound as “potential places of refuge,” or PPORs. These are locations to which a vessel needing assistance can be moved in order to minimize damage to the environment, natural resources and human life. In the event of an emergency, a site assessment matrix is used to determine where a ship should be moved.

However, nearly all of Prince William Sound’s coastline is either sensitive habitat or is especially vulnerable to oil spills, and almost always both. While the areas highlighted on this map are extremely sensitive, an oil spill or other environmental accident would cause extensive damage wherever it may occur.

This map is a snapshot of marine traffic during the busiest months of 2017, which shows the paths of over 1,000 unique vessels and many thousands of trips. While minimizing damage to the environment is an important factor when considering a PPOR, the continued use of Prince William Sound as a high-volume thoroughfare both by oil tankers as well as other marine vessels means that damage to the environment will remain a matter of course rather than an exceptional tragedy.

↬ Harrison Cole

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