10 February 2016 – Brightlingsea, Essex, UK – A planned Oil Spill Incident Management Exercise was successfully completed in Brightlingsea Harbour on Tuesday 9 February. 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 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 ships 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 base line 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.
Overall the exercise was successful, with invaluable lessons learnt that will allow additions and improvements to be made to the Oil Spill Contingency Plan. The exercise allowed the Harbour team to gain valuable expertise to ensure a real life incident is handled as rapidly and efficiently as possible. Among the lessons learned were:
Speaking after the initial debrief, Deputy Harbour Master David Boughton commented, “It was certainly a worthwhile exercise. I was particularly pleased with the turnout from the emergency services and other agencies and grateful for their commitment and support. The harbour team has definitely found it a very constructive experience and we have learnt new skills, all of which will assist us in the future. It has highlighted our desire to do additional resilience training with the local coastguard, police, fire and rescue services. Overall I’m very proud of how our team has responded to this exercise.”
Amongst the elements of the exercise which were particularly praised by the assessors were:
Over the coming days each of the services and agencies involved in the exercise will produce a feedback report to Brightlingsea Harbour Commissioners for review and action as appropriate.
On conclusion of the event Jim Addison, Chairman of Brightlingsea Harbour Commissioners, noted, “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.”
About Brightlingsea HarbourBrightlingsea Harbour is a small mixed leisure and commercial port with a rich heritage, situated in Brightlingsea Creek close to the mouth of the Colne Estuary where it meets the Blackwater and Thames Estuaries.
The Harbour is within a nature conservation area of international importance. The River Colne is navigable on the tide for 7 miles to Colchester in Essex and the River Blackwater is navigable for 11 miles to Maldon. Brightlingsea is a day sail from most ports on the Thames Estuary.
Brightlingsea Harbour is a Trust Port managed by Brightlingsea Harbour Commissioners. The Harbour Master leads a dedicated team of permanent and seasonal staff who oversee the day to day activities within the Harbour.
The Harbour provides a total of about 500 berths and moorings and welcomes many visiting boats, which can number 100 on a busy weekend. Boats of up to 50 feet (15m) and 8 feet (2.5m) draft can be accommodated and a warm welcome awaits all. Facilities at Brightlingsea Harbour have steadily been upgraded over recent years and now includes the addition of a laundry facility for Harbour users and the sale of diesel fuel from a floating barge berth.
Use the links on the menu above to access further information about Brightlingsea Harbour, including details of the Foot and Cycle Ferry service from Brightlingsea, useful information for visitors and what you can find to do in the surrounding area.
More information is available from www.brightlingseaharbour.org