Maritime & Marine

Published: November 2, 2020 | Updated: March 31, 2021

“Vitally important” exercise organised to test response in case of oil spill in Poole Harbour

The oil boom pictured on the side of the quay.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

A major oil spill was simulated by Poole Harbour Commissioners (PHC) to test its capability and processes in the event of a Tier 2 hydrocarbon incident.

The major emergency exercise, carried out every three years, was facilitated by PHC’s oil spill response partners Adler & Allan.

The scenario involved an articulated lorry recently disembarked from a ferry, colliding with a 3,000l waste oil bulk storage tank causing the waste oil to spread over the quay and head towards the water.

PHC works in collaboration with more than 15 organisations, including the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), Environment Agency, BCP Council and Perenco to carry out the exercises.

However, due to the Covid-19 restrictions and social distancing requirements currently in place, this year’s exercise was held online for the first time.

The oil booms in action in Poole Harbour.

As part of PHC’s response to the practical element of the exercise several booms were deployed from RoRo 3.

In the event of a real oil spill, the booms would prevent any oil from flowing into environmentally sensitive areas.

A skimmer was also used to demonstrate how the oil would be captured.

Although a major oil spill in the harbour is unlikely, PHC say it is important that the risk is assessed and that a plan approved by the MCA is in place to respond to such an incident, especially in such an environmentally sensitive area.

Captain Brian Murphy, Harbour Master, pictured left, said: “Our Oil Spill Response Plan sets out the contingency arrangements for responding to an actual or threatened oil pollution incident within Poole Harbour.

“These exercises are vitally important in ensuring that our highly trained personnel are prepared to deal with such unfortunate circumstances professionally and swiftly, helping us to minimise any risk to health, wildlife, the environment and to ensure business continuity.

“Simulated exercises such as this provide the harbour community with the confidence that Poole Harbour Commissioners will be prepared in the event of a major oil spill in Poole Harbour.

“Testing our plan against various scenarios helps us to gain experience, be more prepared and allow us to continually improve our processes.

“Holding this year’s exercise online to conform with the current restrictions in place due to Covid-19 also gave us the perfect opportunity to test our resilience as an organisation.”