The ship once known as the Exxon Valdez has been sold for scrap 23 years after causing the worst tanker spill in U.S. history, which led to new designs for oil carriers.
Now called the Oriental Nicety, the vessel was sold for about $16 million to Global Marketing Systems Inc. in Maryland, the world's biggest cash buyer of ships for demolition. Converted into an ore carrier in 2007, it changed owners and names four times after the 1989 accident, American Bureau of Shipping records show.
The spill, which dumped 11 million gallons of oil in Alaska's Prince William Sound, was the largest in U.S. waters until the 2010 accident at BP's Macondo oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. It's still the country's largest leak from a tanker, and it led to the U.S. requirement for ships to have two hulls.
"The accident pointed out that the biggest risk involved in oil transport is the impact an accident can have on the environment," said Thomas Zwick, an analyst at shipping consultant Lorentzen & Stemoco. "Large companies can go under as a consequence of the financial liabilities bestowed upon them following an accident."
Exxon Mobil Corp., the largest U.S. oil company, still faces litigation from the spill. The Irving, Texas, company spent three years and $3.86 billion to clean up the spill, which damaged 700 miles of coastline and killed more than 36,000 birds, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Exxon agreed in 2009 to pay $470 million in interest on a $507.5-million judgment won by local victims, including fishermen and small businesses, in addition to a $900-million civil settlement. Last month, a judge ruled that U.S. and Alaskan governments could pursue further damage claims.
The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 required owners to phase out single-hulled ships. All but 18 of the world's 560 operating supertankers are now double-hulled, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The Valdez was built by National Steel & Shipbuilding Co. in San Diego.
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