Alyeska does not own the tankers loaded with crude at the Valdez Marine Terminal. They are owned by shipping companies who contract with producers to carry crude oil to market. The entire berthing and loading process takes about a day to complete, and the largest tankers carry up to 2 million barrels of oil. More than 21,000 tankers have loaded at the VMT since 1977.
Tankers carry ballast on the way to the Valdez Marine Terminal. Ballast is water taken on by a tanker to stabilize the ship when it is not carrying crude oil. Today, many tankers have separate tanks for water and cargo, but some still carry ballast and crude oil in the same compartment. The Terminal's Ballast Water Treatment plant can process any ballast contaminated with oil.
Alyeska, through its Ship Escort/Response Vessel System, is the primary oil spill response contractor for the shipping companies and provides response equipment and personnel in the event or threat of an oil spill. The SERVS duty office works closely with the U.S. Coast Guard to monitor vessel traffic and ensure tankers have a safe route through Prince William Sound. The U.S. Coast Guard will close the Port of Valdez in extreme inclement weather, and Alyeska does not load crude oil if the wind speed exceeds 40 knots.