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What does it take to be a true expert? (Part 8: Inland)

Friday, November 23, 2018

What does it take to be a true expert? (Part 8: Inland)

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

In the final instalment of the series, we spoke with Rhys Jenkins, Senior Spill Response Specialist & Duty Manager for OSRL and co-chair of the Inland Core Group. He explains the objectives and activity for his team and how they are helping to build confidence in OSRL’s inland capabilities.

 

What can you tell us about the Inland Core Group and the role the team is playing?

Inland wasn’t a new topic for OSRL when the core groups were formed. I was already part of a small team that had experience within the inland discipline, working on inland related projects such as providing training or reviewing members’ documentation. So, when the second phase of the SME framework was rolled out in Q4 of 2016, the internal individuals with the most relevant experience were naturally chosen to become the management team for the Inland Core Group.

Those founding members included Matt Cameron, Mohammed Elmahy and myself. Matt’s an OSRL Team Supervisor & Duty Manager and acts as the group’s internal mentor, and Mohammed and myself have the title of co-chairs. The remaining members of the group are split between experienced contributors and contributors. In total, we have eight members in the group – situated in different regions around the world, and each with a slightly different understanding, based on their local, regional and global experience.

Once the group was established, and all the required roles within the team were filled, our first objective was to define our approach for the new year and ongoing. That strategy defined our mission, and highlighted our core objective as ‘providing members with best-in-class inland response and preparedness services, by leveraging the expertise of our responders’.

Another aspect of the strategy was focused on ‘drawing on the support of expert technical advice, global infrastructure and logistics partners’, so there is a mix of service delivery, stakeholder engagement and internal competency development.

As part of our external engagement objectives, we spent a lot of time in that first year raising the profile of OSRL’s existing capabilities, and the discipline more generally. We presented papers at international conferences like IOSC and Interspill, and attended several inland specific events like Clean Gulf in the US. At the same time, we were also looking internally, developing the capability of the wider OSRL inland team and building industry confidence in that capability.

 

Since then, how has your activity developed and what are the group’s current objectives?

Our original strategy proposal detailed a three-year plan, running until the end of 2019, so we are still working from that document. As part of that strategy, we identified three themes that are consistent with our previous objectives so it’s fundamentally a continuation of our first year.

The first theme is focused on our people, understanding our current capability, where the gaps are and where advances can be made. We have set some ambitious targets for ensuring all our inland responders are trained in all relevant techniques, including fast water response and tactics for responding to permeable and impermeable substrates, for example. We are also targeting 100% of senior responders to be trained to a technical adviser level.

The second theme revolves around equipment and strengthening OSRL’s stockpile and storage of inland specific apparatus. Our objective is, by 2019, to have complete inland response packages strategically located in all three of OSRL’s hubs around the world and we’re already a long way down the road to achieving that.

Another part of this theme relates to new technology, so we are also spending time investigating new equipment and tools as they come to market. For example, we’ve visited manufacturers like Vicoma and Elastec to witness trials of new skimmers and to understand where they might fit as part of our inland toolbox.

Equally relevant to the equipment theme is the development of apps and digital tools to aid our activity. We are working with OSRL’s internal visualisation team to understand how we could leverage investments already made for other areas, like the app created to assist shoreline clean-up assessment techniques (SCAT). The app removes the need for paper forms and replaces it with a digital app, which automatically communicates with the control room and other members of the team to speed up the process. We are looking at how we could adapt that software to be relevant to nearshore and inland environments. We are also discussing other opportunities available to us through the visualisation team and its understanding of ARC GIS; working on things like environmental sensitivity mapping and inland tactical response plans.

The final theme is additional support. This has two prongs; support that we can get from the global inland community, through organisations like the Global Response Network (GRN); and additional support we can provide to our members by expanding our inland specific offering.

The GRN is a bit like OSRL’s SME framework, but for the whole spill response industry. Each spill response organisation has a GRN representative and there’s a GRN operational team for each spill discipline. We are members of the inland operational team so we’re able to engage with the global community, meet face-to-face, and agree shared objectives for the development of the discipline.

When it comes to increasing the support we’re able to offer our members, it’s essentially about the response and preparedness courses we offer. Within this area we have specific objectives to either design from scratch or expand existing courses to cover the full spectrum of inland requirements, at a senior level. That means creating courses and the related materials dedicated to specific topics, such as substrates, fast water or transportation, and inviting external partners and GRN members to join us and input their experience so we have the most complete and rounded training possible.

 

Finally, what does the future look like for the Inland core group?

The future for the inland group is focused on continuing to progress the discipline and OSRL’s capabilities within it. We want OSRL to be recognised as a leading voice on the topic, giving us the opportunity to move into more consultancy projects, providing technical advice and response recommendations to our members.

The inland courses are another big part of our future objectives. By the end of our currently defined strategy period, we want to be considered the industry benchmark for response and preparedness training. And, with the framework already in place, our involvement with the GRN and other bodies, and our collective commitment to inland, we are already in a good place to realise these ambitions.

Author Bio(s)

Rhys Jenkins

Senior Responder