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What does it take to be a true expert? (Part 6: Cold Weather)

Friday, November 9, 2018

What does it take to be a true expert? (Part 6: Cold Weather)

In this series of articles, we look to highlight the activity of OSRL’s Subject Matter Experts (SME) program and the working groups established to advance each discipline’s objectives.

This time around, we chatted with Andy Nevin, Response Process Manager for OSRL and the co-chair of its ‘Cold Weather’ core group. Here he explains the team’s objectives and previous successes, and discusses how the group’s activity is helping OSRL grow its position as global experts in cold weather oil spill response.


What can you tell us about cold weather response and the activities of the core group?

Personally, I started looking to expand our cold weather capabilities around five years ago – following a secondment to Eastern Russia. When I came back, I met with the EMEA regional manager and the technical director,  and highlighted the areas where we could improve as an organisation, as well as demonstrating that it was a potential growth area for our members. Collectively, we agreed that there was a need for OSRL to develop its experience and expertise in the discipline and become world leaders in cold weather response.

Following that, using the connections and response techniques we utilised in Russia and other areas, such as Alaska and Kazakhstan, we developed our first cold weather course for OSRL responders. However, we quickly realised that to best achieve our cold weather ambitions, we needed to create a coalition of response organisations, and partner with them to develop a ‘best-in-class’ training framework.  To that end, we contacted the East Canada Response Corporation (ECRC) and Alaska Clean Seas (ACS) and said we’d like to work together to create and run a joint global response network cold weather course.

They were very engaged with the idea, so we started with a foundation course for ECRC, ACS and OSRL’s responders and ran two courses before the current SME program was established. At that time, we saw the value of being a part of the new, larger SME program so we modified the previous group and created the new SME cold weather core group.

Currently there are six members on the cold weather team, and we also have an industry mentor in Tim Nedwed, who works for Exxon as an Oil Spill Response Senior Technical Professional Advisor. The overarching purpose of the group hasn’t changed since I returned from Russia; we’re still focused on developing our own and our member’s experience and understanding of how to handle incidents which occur in cold weather locations effectively. 


What are the group’s current objectives?

Since we joined the SME program, our primary objective has been the continued development of the cold weather courses in Canada and Greenland, working with our Global Response Network partners to make it bigger and better each year. We’ve now run the courses for four years and have a fifth scheduled for January 2019, and every time it has grown in scope and depth, introducing new technology, equipment, safety procedures and response techniques. We always learn a lot from the GRN responders and we should have an even greater number of industry personnel joining us in January. We discuss with the GRN responders which equipment works best, in which scenarios, and where it falls short. For example, when it comes to responding at night, which is common in artic regions, we have shared the methods that are most effective and practice these to make working on ice in cold conditions as safe as possible, such as that there’s adequate lighting and fail-safes, etc. Other members of the GRN have new techniques for finding the oil at night or new recovery techniques, so we are all learning from each other constantly. The actual structure of the courses has also remained fairly consistent over the years. Each course runs over five days and about 40% of our time is spend in the class room, 60% out in the field, on the ice.

Another objective we had as part of the SME program was to look at offshore recovery and response in cold weather. In this instance, we partnered with Greenland Oil Spill Response (GOSR), based in Nuuk, on the western coast of Greenland just below the Arctic Circle. We took a selection of response equipment out with us and worked with GOSR to put a cold weather offshore course together.

Similar to the courses we were already running, the offshore course takes place over a working week and we cover a broad range of topics and strategies. We train and perform various exercises to recover oil in iced waters, shoreline clean-up assessments in iced conditions and review in-situ burning techniques and strategies for cold weather. We’ve now run that course for three years and developed a strong partnership in the process. GOSR’s responders now join our courses in Canada so we’ve built a highly-credible coalition of cold weather experts, each bringing their own unique skillset to the party.


What’s next for the cold weather group?

Right now, we’re very focused on our next exercise. It will be the biggest to date and we’re expecting around 50 responders to attend, over the course of the event. We will have teams from OSRL, ECRC, as well as Responders from NOFO, which is the Norwegian Clean Seas Association for Operating Companies, and a number of representatives from member organisations.

Moving forward, we will continue to expand our capabilities and those of our partners through more exercises, secondments and industry involvement, and working with members to deliver client tailored courses to their teams in their local areas. It’s really a process of continuous learning for everyone involved so there isn’t an end goal, we simply want to continue to develop our collective capabilities across the GRN and make cold weather response as effective and safe as possible.

Author Bio(s)

Andy Nevin

Duty Manager