Critical Human Dimensions of Maritime Oil Spills – As Examined through Investigation of the Selendang Ayu Incident

This report describes the results of a BOEM-funded ethnographic study of Alaska’s second largest maritime oil spill– that of the Malaysian-flagged freighter, the Selendang Ayu. Because the human effects of significant maritime oil spills tend to manifest not only in the near-term but also years after the initial spillage and response, this study underscores the utility of examining social and economic aspects of such events over the course of time. A variety of human dimensions are described and analyzed, including: the grounding of the freighter, the resulting spill of fuel oil and cargo, the nature of the formal response effort and associated costs, resolution and adjudication of criminal and civil violations, and select sociocultural and economic effects observed over time. Findings are based on data gathered through four ethnographic field visits to Unalaska following the accident; ongoing research interaction with public officials involved in spill response and damage assessment; archival research; and real-time monitoring of the event and its long-term outcomes. Research findings were disseminated in one technical report.