A planned ‘oil spill incident management exercise’ was carried out in Brightlingsea Harbour yesterday.
The object of the exercise was to test the capability and processes for response to a hydrocarbon (fuel oil) spill in the harbour.
The scenario set by Brightlingsea Harbour Commision’s (BHC) spill management partner Adler & Allen involved a commercial aggregate vessel, such as might periodically transit the harbour (played for the exercise by Brightingsea Harbour’s Pilot Vessel), suffering a fire onboard which the ship’s crew extinguished, but which resulted in injuries to those fighting the fire and one casualty in the water.
The scenario then called for the vessel to strike a submerged object which punctured an onboard fuel tank resulting in a release of marine gas oil into Brightlingsea Creek. The vessel issued a May Day distress call that was received by Brightlingsea Harbour, which then put into place their planned response, calling on other emergency services and agencies for support.
Prior to the exercise only basic information about the incident was shared with the Brightlingsea Harbour team, with additional scenarios and objectives being added by both Adler & Allen and representatives from other organisations during the exercise.
These additional scenarios included a road traffic incident delaying the arrival of equipment, members of the public entering the water to assist wildlife and becoming casualties, and an injury to a key member of the response team. In addition to these fictional scenarios the response team also had to contend with a real life surprise element in the form of a tidal surge above predicted height, which made effective deployment of equipment more challenging.
The exercise also involved the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the Marine Management Organisation, the Environment Agency, the emergency services, Tendring District Council, Essex County Council, Kent and Essex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, Natural England and observers from other stakeholder and interest groups.
Jim Addison, chairman of Brightlingsea Harbour Commissioners, said: ‘It has been a most constructive and useful day for both Brightlingsea Harbour Authority and our partners in major incident control.
‘It is only through exercises such as this that we can check and improve our plans for handling incidents and we have been very impressed by the work carried out by all parties today.
‘In particular, I would like to praise the Brightlingsea Harbour team who undertook this exercise in the wake of the recent sudden death of Harbour Master, Steve Chick.
‘Postponing the exercise in light of Steve’s death was considered, but the team, led by our newly-appointed Deputy Harbour Master, David Boughton, felt confident the event should go ahead. A decision that has been more than vindicated today.’
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