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Spill Raises Concerns About Drinking Tanker Crews With PM-Tanker Spill, Bjt

March 29, 1989

VALDEZ, Alaska (AP) _ Some townspeople are urging tighter restrictions on visiting seamen after reports that the ship captain involved in the nation’s biggest oil spill had a drinking problem.

″They’ve got to do something to control the people who are driving those tankers,″ Valdez City Councilor Sally McAdoo said Tuesday.

Federal investigators probing Friday’s grounding of the tanker Exxon Valdez say they are focusing on the actions of the ship’s captain, Joseph Hazelwood.

When the accident occurred, Hazelwood had left the bridge in command of a third mate uncertified to navigate the ice-choked shipping lanes south of Valdez. The ship ran aground on a charted reef and spilled 10.1 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound.

″I do know that he had a problem with alcohol in the past,″ said Hazelwood’s mother, Margaret, in a telephone interview from her home in Huntington, N.Y. ″I know he was rehabilitated. Exxon knows it.″

According to Alaska Commissioner of Public Safety Art English, the Coast Guard asked a state trooper to investigate a report that Hazelwood had been drinking before he boarded the ship Thursday night.

Hazelwood, 42, pleaded guilty in 1984 to drunken driving near his home in Huntington, N.Y. He was convicted of drunken driving in New Hampshire last September in and his license was revoked.

Investigators have refused to comment on whether drinking contributed to the tanker accident. They said results of blood tests of Hazelwood and two other crew members would be available later this week.

Katie Hite, a bartender in Valdez for 13 years, said she has had to cut off inebriated tanker crew members and put them on a cab back to the ship.

″I’ve seen guys come in and drink and drink and drink - and then complain about how they have to go back on watch,″ she said. ″I wonder that these guys can get through the gate and be so drunk.″

The gate is a security checkpoint at the Valdez oil terminal run by Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.

Upon their return from town, tanker crew members must pass through a metal detector. Packages are checked for drugs, alcohol and weapons, said Ed Kiml, the terminal’s head of security.

But that doesn’t stop sailors from staggering back to their ship.

Drunkenness does not bar them from passing security ″as long as they’ve got their faculties to walk and get back on the ship,″ Kiml said.

Guards may call the ship’s master to provide an escort for unruly crew members, but that rarely is needed, he said.

Some shipping companies allow drinking aboard their tankers. Exxon Shipping Co. Inc. does not, said company President Frank Iarossi.

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