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Responder Diaries: Starting Out As A New Responder

mardi 30 avril 2024

A Day In The Life Of A Responder

In their first twelve weeks, our new wave of responders undergo a rigorous training process, introducing them to our different methods of responding to an oil spill, the equipment used, and scenario-based exercises to test their newly learned skills.

A recent group of new recruits documented their journey and described how varied and interesting the role of a responder can be. 



Week 1: Introduction to the Company

In week one, our group of excited new starters were buzzing with motivation and positivity in their first morning debrief. These emotions were prominent as the new team received a warm reception from each of the various departments around the company, each team shared their functions, and how they interact with different parts of the organisation.

They spent most of the first week in the classroom, learning more about the Oil and Gas industry and the role of OSRL, understanding what we offer our members and how each department works together to ensure we deliver the most efficient service to the industry.


Week 2: Safety 

The second week was all about safety at work, an integral part of our organisation and part of our core values. The team began by going through the process of ensuring they had the correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and it fitted correctly.

They learned about the hazards commonly experienced in an oil spill, including Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHHH) awareness with an introduction to the site entry procedure.

They completed the National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH) assessment and got to grips with the ASSURE system and Alcumus, emphasising safe working practices.

After a week learning all things safety, they escaped the classroom for a welcome break in the warehouse for the gantry crane training.


Week 3: Response Techniques

The team was introduced to response techniques in week three, which included insightful and informative presentations and practical tasks relating to the techniques.

They learned how to calculate the area of a spill during an overflight in a presentation on Surveillance Modelling and Visualisation, an opportunity to practice one of these newly acquired skills, using our Garmin GPS devices and digital cameras to geotag photo locations on RoboGEO.  

The training continued with the team looking further in-depth into the Fate of Oil Spills and the various response strategies that can be used to mitigate their impacts.

Towards the end of the week, they learned more about the environmental considerations employed during an oil spill response and how to protect sensitive areas offshore and along the shoreline. They were given presentations on the importance of waste management and dispersants to an effective response.


Week 4 & 5: Equipment Training, Recap and Travel

Week four of the Offline Course saw the responders gain valuable hands-on experience with a wide range of oil spill response equipment stored at our base in Southampton, UK. Our Maintenance Team led the week, and OCS technicians accompanied the group to demonstrate the safe use of the equipment.

Following the previous week of studying various response strategies and techniques, it was great for the new team to put theory into practice and have an opportunity to see and operate the equipment first-hand. Although the week mainly consisted of in-house demonstrations, not going offshore or on shoreline deployments provided a great opportunity for the group to build on their skills and carry these through to the upcoming exercises later in the course.

This week began with Matt Cameron, Senior Maintenance Technician, sharing his experience as he led a morning of theory sessions explaining the fundamentals of pumps and engines and further essential information. Moving on to the afternoon, they equipped themselves with the required PPE and headed out to the warehouse. Upon arriving in the maintenance bay, they were greeted with engine and pump units, which had been prepared for a fault-finding session; this was the offliner's first chance to have a look around the bespoke equipment, and they didn't hesitate getting to work.

Matt handed over to Mark Harvey, Duty Manager, another person with a wealth of experience in the industry, who took control of the rest of the week, which focused on setting up and using the equipment.

As the week progressed, the balance slowly shifted from teaching to guided learning, allowing the group to dive further into the equipment and teach each other. This proved a great success. Everyone began to understand further the equipment, and were confident in explaining when it should be used, where it should be used, and how and why it should be used.

During week 5, the team recapped what they had learned on the course so far and understood a bit more about travel.


Week 6,7 & 8: Offshore Training

Week six was a welcome change of scenery for the group, allowing them to set sail on the beautiful Southampton water. They also welcomed offliners from our Fort Lauderdale and Singapore bases to the team for the remainder of the training.

They began by inspecting and ensuring safety checks were carried out on the various offshore equipment. With double and triple checks implemented and spare parts and contingencies in place, there was little doubt that they were fully prepared for anything the estuary had to throw at them.

On Tuesday, with an early start, they quickly became acquainted with the Ro-Boom and its various pros and cons, learning how to deploy the boom from a vessel in both a straight lay and loop lay.

The individuals were becoming quite adept at boom deployment and the Ro-Boom, using a secondary vessel, in both a U and J formation. Furthermore, they used the Termite skimmer to simulate oil recovery during each formation.

Thursday saw no decline in their ability to work as an eager and productive team, and, despite some fatigue, team morale shone brightly. The Ro-Boom was packed away and replaced with the Hi-Sprint, while the Kamara Star skimmer replaced the Termite, with each being deployed and retrieved with excellent efficiency.

On Friday, with the week completed and all equipment back at the Southampton base, they could finish their offshore experience with a thorough examination and rehabilitation of everything used. Where necessary, they noted any issues identified and tidied each piece of equipment away safely and securely.

The first offshore week was a resounding success, and despite the hard work, they all looked forward to continuing with the varied and practical experiences in the coming weeks.

The weather on week seven of the offshore week proved to be less severe than the previous week. This ensured that they could deploy all day, every day, and thus, have time to practice using all of the equipment that was loaded on the Monday.

On Tuesday, they deployed the Current Buster 2 system in a two-vessel operation. After towing in a U-formation, the towing line was passed back to the main vessel. Half of the team boarded the support vessel and travelled to the back of the Current Buster 2, where they used a disc skimmer to simulate the recovery element to this active boom.

On Wednesday, they split into two teams. Half redeployed the Current Buster 2 system, while the other half used the OWI’s to build the boat spray system and boom vane. We then re-grouped as the advantages of using the boom vane for a one-vessel operation were clearly demonstrated. After lunch, the teams swapped over. As one team reeled in the Current Buster, the other practiced building the boat spray system and boom vane on deck.

On Thursday, the team stayed as one as the NeatSweep® system required everyone to muck in due to its size and the available deck space on the Williams Vessel. After fitting all the metal elements together at the back of the system, the NeatSweep® deployed similarly to the Current Buster, that is, with a boom vane. Friday was spent rehabbing all the equipment used, debriefing, and compiling the various pieces of evidence required for the ACMS.

Current Buster Deployment Week 7 Offline Training.jpg

Current Buster 2 deployment


Week 9:  Running Mooring & trip to Cedre, France

Week nine began with a recap, followed by a course recap of the previous week. ACMS capture and formative assessments were completed, and the team were given a presentation and focus for the week, running mooring. The trainers gave a detailed explanation on the process and importance of this and we felt very well prepared for the following day.

They checked that the equipment was ready for the day and after an operational and safety briefing, they set sail and deployed the Current Buster 2. They returned to docks, transferred the equipment from the vessel to the trailer, and proceeded to prepare booms for running mooring. They achieved this in just under an hour.

Before setting off for France, they were given a presentation in readiness in preparation for the trip. The brief was thorough and consisted of journey management plans and risk assessments. The team then proceeded to rehabilitate the equipment that was used for the week.


Week 10 & 11: Scenario-Based Exercises & Introduction to the Aircraft

After an amazing week spent working with real oil in Cedre, France, it was time to get back to Southampton to implement some of the newly gained strategies and skills to make sure they were as perfect as possible.

At the start of this week, the group were presented with a scenario of a spilled oil case currently occurring on Stokes Bay beach in Gosport. The whole idea was that an unknown quantity of an unknown product was reported to show the same characteristics and appearance of a light fuel oil/diesel and had been reported by a crew change vessel in the Eastern Solent. Trajectory modelling indicated that they had to conduct a shoreline response at the predicted affected area, the job was to plan and implement a strategy to tackle this problem.

Putting what they’d learned into practice, they produced and reviewed risk assessments alongside other necessary documents, before selecting all required equipment and safely loading them on a trailer. The next day, they drove to Stokes Bay early in the morning. Upon arrival, they reviewed the risk assessments again and conducted a site and safety briefing before splitting into three teams to conduct SCAT surveys.

At Bournemouth Airport they were introduced to the Boeing 727 and discovered how much of a challenge it is to build a dispersant system of this magnitude that is compatible with flammable fluids, and that can perform spray operations at speeds of around 150kt. and altitudes of 150ft.

The next morning, they began preparing a Site Entry Protocol and a Site Response Plan before moving forward with unloading equipment and setting up the site with a command tent. In the afternoon, they deployed a long spur boom with the help of the captain before mobilising recovery and storage equipment to carry out stage pumping.

At the end of the day, the team conducted a debrief and then planned the overnight boom watch, allocating three-time slots, four hours each, from 1800 to 0600. The following morning, with the help of Captain Lee Prendergast and James Thompson, they converted the formation to achieve Horseshoe Booming and simulated how to transfer oil from the apex of the boom to multiple fast tanks using Stage Pumping. Finally, they headed back to base and started with equipment rehabilitation. The team worked hard to restore the pallets to an ideal condition.

Offline Responders Meet the OSRL B727 at Bournemouth Airport.jpg

Meeting the B-727 at Bournemouth Airport


Week 12: Completing the Responder Training Course

The offliners completed their Endex as the final challenge of the Responder Training course. The scenario dictated that there was a fictional refined lubricant ‘Soul Glow’ spilling from a ship-on-ship collision in Southampton Water, south of Netley.

Planning commenced after the operation brief. ICS documents were filled in, risk assessments produced, SIMA completed, and equipment was identified. An offshore recovery operation was the first response strategy where the Ro-Boom and a termite skimmer were selected.

On Monday, before conducting the offshore phase, the team had to present the response strategy and rationale to the client for scrutiny. Following the meeting with the client, they travelled to Southampton Docks, where it was loaded and they boarded a Williams Shipping vessel to conduct a successful containment and recovery exercise.

Day four of Endex began by conducting SCAT surveys of Thorness Bay to determine if the scenario oil had reached the shoreline. One team conducted a further SCAT at Newtown National Nature Reserve, identifying possible exercise oiled areas, as well as encountering a relaxed seal on a paddleboard! Further challenges involved changing the tyre on the Land Rover, while the remaining team members processed the SCAT tracks on RoboGEO and conducted the relevant ICS paperwork for the following operational period.

Thursday was the final operational day, and the shoreline containment and recovery phase of the exercise led on from the SCAT and SRP. The shoreline phase started with a SEP and finalisation of the SRP. The team deployed a straight-lay shoreline boom for collection, which was then placed in a horseshoe formation to conduct a low-pressure flush with a Komara 7K.

After the equipment was recovered and secured, the team went for a well-earned group meal – a fantastic end to an incredible training programme.

Shoreline boom deployment during Endex Offline Training Course.jpg

Shoreline boom deployment during Endex


The role of a responder at Oil Spill Response is hands-on; you will learn a range of new skills whilst implementing the knowledge you already have.  

Find out more about careers at Oil Spill Response and how you can get started on your journey with us.