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Counter Pollution Exercise Tests MCA's Operational Preparedness

Image courtesy of Maritime and Coastguard Agency
Image courtesy of Maritime and Coastguard Agency

Published Mar 30, 2022 9:40 AM by The Maritime Executive

[By: Maritime and Coastguard Agency]

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency completed a live training exercise last week (21-24th March), designed to test the MCA’s ability to alert and activate its counter pollution teams and equipment resources in a scenario replicating a real pollution incident at the coast and in the sea. 

As the lead authority for marine pollution response and as part of the UK’s National Contingency Plan, the MCA worked alongside its contractor Ambipar Response Limited to deliver the exercise which was held at Heysham, Lancashire. 

The scenario involved HM Coastguard’s Holyhead Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre receiving a report on the morning of Monday 21st March – confirming that 500 tons of crude oil had been released from an offshore installation site near Heysham, impacting ferry and freight services as well as the local environment, such as beaches at nearby Morecambe Bay.

In an immediate and joined-up response effort, MCA teams, along with Peel Ports, the oil spill responder Adler and Allan, local authorities in Lancashire and the offshore installation site responsible for the spill, met at the earliest opportunity to discuss and implement a plan of action to react to the incident.

This resulted in MCA teams quickly and safely mobilising stockpiles of equipment to contain and recover as much oil as possible from the spill, mitigating not only its impact but avoiding having to close a busy operational port.

Some of the wide-ranging specialist equipment and resources used by the MCA for the marine and coastal pollution response included a Current Buster 2 – a high-tech combined containment and recovery system capable of oil spill recovery in shallow waters, a Boom Bag – a rapidly deployable boom and underwater curtain system able to quickly contain a spill – limiting the spread of oil and making it easier to recover, and a Boat Spray tool which sprays dispersants onto surface oil via fixed nozzles or through the use of hose guns for a more precise approach. 

In addition, a number of vessels also supported the exercise effort by positioning equipment and carrying teams to the affected areas on the coastline and in the water.

Jerry Connors, Counter Pollution and Salvage Resources and Claims Lead, was the Exercise Controller and responsible for overseeing logistics, the MCA’s response and demonstration of safe working practices. He said: “This was a really valuable and important exercise to test the MCA’s ability to manage and resolve a pollution incident. We coordinated a rapid response, helping to protect the near shore and coastal environment, by working to overcome the logistical challenges of bringing different teams and equipment together in a fast-moving situation.”

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