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Whangarei Harbour ‘oil spill’ tests preparedness

9 April, 2013

Whangarei Harbour ‘oil spill’ tests preparedness

A fictional five-tonne oil slick near the entrance of the Whangarei Harbour has seen Northland’s oil spill response preparations put to the test.

The day-long scenario, run at Northport at Marsden Point recently (subs: 3 April 2013), brought together around 35 trained oil spill responders from as far afield as Taranaki.

With the Marsden Point oil refinery on its doorstep and a high volume of commercial shipping traffic passing through its waters, Northland is one of the main focal points for oil spill response in New Zealand.

“These exercises are a valuable training tool to help build on the considerable oil spill response experience we have here in Northland,” the Northland Regional Council’s Opua-based Regional Harbourmaster Jim Lyle says.

Mr Lyle says many of Northland’s oil spill responders have been involved in major events such as the Rena response in 2011 and even the Gulf of Mexico’s Deepwater Horizon spill of 2010.

The recent oil spill exercise involved trained responders from Northland Regional Council, Refining NZ, Northport Limited, North Tugz, Auckland Council, Taranaki Regional Council and Maritime NZ.

Mr Lyle says that practical exercises – typically run once a year – help regional responders to stay familiar with the range of specialised equipment that may be used during an oil spill.

“We have a large store of specialised Maritime NZ equipment based at Northport for quick access during an oil spill event and there’s a significant amount of equipment just two hours away in Auckland,” says Mr Lyle.

“While in a real event every situation is different, regular hands-on practise with the equipment helps prepare us to respond as efficiently and effectively as possible.

“All of the participants in this oil spill exercise put in a huge effort and contributed to a smooth, efficient and successful operation.”

Mr Lyle says the most recent oil spill exercise made use of the council’s 16 metre pilot boat, the ‘Waikare’, and two of its smaller work-boats, ‘Tai Ao’ and ‘Karetu’.

“All our workboats perform a variety of roles in their ‘day jobs’, but they’re also on-call at all times for oil spill response and recovery.

“The Waikare was specially designed as a multi-purpose boat that – as well as being used for piloting and maintenance of aids to navigation – is able to carry and deploy the heavy equipment used during an oil spill response.“

Mr Lyle says that following the exercise, the Waikare was also used to trial a new piece of Maritime NZ oil spill response equipment, the ‘harbour buster boom’, which will soon be added to the region’s equipment store.

ENDS

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