NEWS - Sydney Ports undertakes annual Botany Bay oil spill response exercise

NEWS - Sydney Ports undertakes annual Botany Bay oil spill response exercise

Botany Bay is the scene of a simulated oil spill containment exercise today, designed to test Sydney Ports Corporation and Caltex oil-spill response capabilities.

Sydney Ports said it has responsibility for responding to marine-based emergencies and for controlling, cleaning up and investigating any spills on Sydney Harbour and Botany Bay.

Sydney Ports CEO, Grant Gilfillan said the aim of the exercise is to test the response of Sydney Ports to a Tier 2 oil spill, or a spill of between 10 and 1000 tonnes of oil.

“The exercise will replicate an emergency response to a simulated steering failure of a crude oil tanker on approach to the Caltex 3 Kurnell berth,” Gilfillan said.

“One of the aims of the event is to ensure the containment of any spilled oil, the safe operation of all Sydney Ports plant and equipment, and the safe and effective response of both Sydney Ports and Caltex staff involved.

“In addition, the exercise serves to test emergency procedures and boom deployment options to prevent escalation to a Tier 3 oil spill, greater than 1000 tonnes of oil.

“Approximately 20 Sydney Ports’ marine operations personnel will be involved using a range of oil-spill equipment such as containment booms, skimmers and specialised oil recovery vessels.

“The exercise continues a busy year for a number of these highly trained Sydney Ports marine operations staff. Many returned in March and April from Queensland’s Pacific Adventurer oil spill clean-up having increased their interstate oil-spill response experience.

“As well as conducting regular exercises to ensure we’re well prepared for emergencies and oil spills, Sydney Ports also conducts random safety audits to minimise the chance of such incidents,” said Gilfillan.

During the 2008/09 financial year, Sydney Port said its officers carried out 4871 audits on vessels transferring bulk oil, gas and chemicals. There were 106 dangerous goods container terminal audits.

In addition, last year, Sydney Ports said it responded to 236 reported incidents of marine pollution.

Meanwhfile, the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) said it remains concerned that oil continues to leak into the sea from the well in the waters off the northwest coast of Australia and that it could be several days before the spill is brought under control.

Far from being remote and environmentally unimportant, AMCS said the region affected by the spill is an important nursery ground and migration route for whales and turtles, while it is also close to some of the richest coral reef systems on Earth.

"A swift and effective response to tackle this spill is needed," said Darren Kindleysides, AMCS director.

"Our northwest coast and seas are globally important for their marine wildlife. This spill serves to illustrate how the region's unique marine life is under increasing pressure from development, in particular oil and gas exploration.

"As development continues to expand off Western Australia, there will be an increased risk of this sort of incident occurring again. Beyond immediate action to minimise the impact of this spill on the marine environment, Government must act to better safeguard our marine life.

"A safety net of large marine sanctuaries urgently needs to be set up around our coastline as safe havens to buffer our marine life from development. Protection is currently the exception not the norm ? less than one per cent of the region is safeguarded within marine parks," Kindleysides said.

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