(CNN) # As an added measure of security under the nation’s elevated threat level, the U.S. Coast Guard has temporarily halted the transfer of oil onto tankers from Alaska’s port of Valdez. The Coast Guard announced the decision Thursday, one day after oil-transfer operations were halted.
The port serves as the port of entry and the southern terminal for the trans-Alaska pipeline from Prudhoe Bay.
A written statement released by the Coast Guard described the decision as “a further example of prudent maritime security measures.
“Homeland Security officials, the U.S. Coast Guard, state and local authorities and [maritime officials] … will continue to assess the security situation of the ports as appropriate,” the statement said.
The United States remains at Code Orange # the second-highest level on the five-tiered terrorist warning scale.
Valdez is located on Prince William Sound, about 200 miles east of Anchorage on Alaska’s northern slope.
The slope produces about 20 percent of the United States’ crude oil, but accounts for only about 11 percent of the country’s oil consumption.
Valdez is the northernmost ice-free port in North America, according to Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, which runs the trans-Alaska pipeline.
Residents of Valdez said the increase in security in the area over the past two days was remarkable.
Stan Stephens, a long-time resident of Valdez, said it’s “been pretty obvious to everybody.”
Stephens operates a charter tour boat and is also on the board of directors of the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens Advisory Council, a citizens’ watchdog group established after the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989.
He said there have been numerous military jets and helicopters along with an influx of FBI, Coast Guard, and military personnel in the remote town of 4,000 residents.
“It’s raised the excitement level in town,” he added.
The road to the pipeline terminal has been closed to local traffic since Tuesday when the Coast Guard announced to the advisory council that the transfers would be stopped.
Stephens said local residents continue to work at the terminal, even though they can’t load tankers. The terminal has several days storage capacity, so the pipeline continues to operate, he said.
A few empty oil tankers are in the Gulf of Alaska “circling, waiting to come in,” Stephens said.
John Devens, who was mayor of Valdez in 1989, said possibly several hundred security personnel have arrived in the past few days.
Devens is executive director of the council, which he said was told by the Coast Guard that “it had come down on good authority” that there was a “credible threat” to the oil facilities in town, but Devens said they were not told the nature of that threat.
Devens said the airspace over the pipeline terminal has been restricted since terrorists attacked New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. Two days ago, he said, a private pilot strayed into this “no-fly zone” and was escorted out by two military aircraft.
The Valero Energy Corporation, based in San Antonio, Texas, said its San Francisco area refinery produces 130,000 barrels of oil-related products per day and gets half of its crude oil from Alaska’s northern slope.
Spokesman Bill Tanner said that a one- or two-day delay in oil shipments would have no impact on the company, but if the shutdown continued, Valero would have to begin reducing output early next week.