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Unions protest change in Alaska oil tanker escort contract

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Two maritime unions are protesting a proposal to change who escorts oil tankers out of Alaska’s Prince William Sound, warning the change could cause a major spill in the area where the Exxon Valdez accident saw 11 million gallons of crude soil beaches and wildlife in 1989.

Alyeska (al-ee-ES-kah) Pipeline Service Co., which operates the trans-Alaska pipeline, is negotiating with Edison Chouest (shwest) Offshore, a Louisiana-based nonunion contractor, to replace Florida-based Crowley Maritime Services for escorts and spill response of tankers leaving Valdez (val-DEEZ).

The International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots and the Inlandboatmen’s Union are urging Alaskans to sign a petition objecting to the switch.

The unions are planning a television advertising campaign warning that change will undercut the Alaska economy by replacing resident workers with nonresidents.

They also say that the change could increase the chances of a spill in Prince William Sound.

An Alyeska spokeswoman did not immediately return calls for comment on Tuesday.

Related news: North Slope companies to keep up spending.

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