Counter pollution partners will have a vital opportunity to train response teams and develop operational capabilities this week (27-30 September), with a multi-agency oil spill exercise.
The live on-the-water exercise involves simulating an oil spill incident to test response equipment and instruct personnel on best-practice procedures. It will mark the first time the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and Oil Spill Response Limited (OSRL) have collaborated on this type of activity, alongside aviation operators 2Excel and RVL.
It will take place southwest of the Isle of Wight and along the Solent on two days (28/29 September) and involve a number of specialist vessels out on the water, as well as the Boeing 727 aircraft adapted with internal tanks, pumps, and spray booms flying alongside a dedicated surveillance aircraft. Partner 2Excel Aviation will operate the Boeing 727.
The MCA’s dedicated Boeing 737 and Spotter aircraft will also be part of the exercise, operated by RVL Aviation.
With the protection of the marine environment paramount, the event will involve the Boeing 727 flying at a low level and depositing a small amount of a harmless fluorescein dye into the water to act as a simulated oil spill. The OSRL vessels will then perform the relevant training activities and use the 727 and 737 to spray water over the target area, simulating the application of a specialist oil spill dispersant.
Throughout the week, various containment and remediation equipment items will be deployed in the water and may be visible from the shore. Apparatus will include a range of different booms used to contain oil in an actual spill scenario and ‘skimmers’, which collect oil from the water’s surface and transfer it to a tank or vessel.
Commenting on the exercise, Matt Clements, Regional Director EMEA, said: “As the world’s largest dedicated oil spill response organisation with a global remit, we constantly need to be training our teams and validating current good-practice methodologies. Exercises like these are complex and challenging to perform, but they are also essential to ensuring we’re best able to protect the marine environment should an incident occur. We are particularly pleased to be collaborating with our member the MCA during this exercise. For local residents, you can be assured that no oil or dispersants are being used, and there is absolutely no risk to the coastline or local marine life.”
Maritime and Coastguard Agency environmental science officer Jamie Gathercole said: “Thankfully, major oil spills don’t happen often, particularly in UK waters, but we still need to ensure we are ready to respond to a significant incident. The MCA’s 737 dispersant spray aircraft gives the UK another valuable tool in oil pollution response, and this exercise allows the MCA to operate alongside our counter pollution partners in Oil Spill Response Limited (OSRL).
“A joined-up response is essential and it’s what we’d expect to see in a real-life major oil spill incident, so the chance to rehearse the coordination and communication aspects, as well as the practical application component, is vital. Our two aviation providers will also have the opportunity to demonstrate their specific expertise, and we all learn from each other; ensuring that we are fully prepared should the worst happen.”
Oil Spill Response Limited (OSRL) is the largest international industry-funded spill-response cooperative, dedicated to responding to oil spills, wherever in the world they may occur. OSRL provides preparedness, response and intervention services and is wholly owned by the most environmentally responsible oil and gas companies around the globe. OSRL currently employs 275 people across 12 locations and is headquartered in Southampton, UK.
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