Norway showcases spill response capabilities

27 Oct 2017
The complex exercise involved more 600 people, 30 vessels, drones, surveillance aeroplanes, helicopters and oil booms.

The complex exercise involved more 600 people, 30 vessels, drones, surveillance aeroplanes, helicopters and oil booms.

A recent oil and chemical spill exercise in Norway offered an international audience an insight into the country’s emergency preparedness.

In shipping, the possibility of mishap cannot be ruled out. But the Norwegian Coastal Administration (NCA) remains committed to marine environment protection and sharing best practices towards safer and cleaner seas.

Working with other national authorities and organisations, NCA has contingency plans for dealing with oil and chemical spills and regularly carries out training and exercises as part of its effort to maintain adequate emergency preparedness.

The latest exercise conducted by the NCA, code-named SCOPE (Skagerak Chemical Oilspill Pollution Exercise) 2017 is a joint project of the Nordic countries -Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Greenland - with support from the European Union. It is one of Europe’s largest spill exercises.

Simulated collision

The exercise scenario was loosely based on the Full City incident that took place in 2009, though SCOPE was more complicated as it involved a simulated collision between a chemical tanker and an oil tanker, which resulted in oil and ammonia gas leakage in an environmentally sensitive area in Norway’s Telemark county. (see master scenario description for more information)

SCOPE 2017 comprised a full-scale ground deployment and incident management exercise, to demonstrate multinational response capabilities. The NCA mobilized government, municipal and private resources, and requested international assistance to deal with the pollution incident.

Preventative measures

Johan Marius Ly, NCA’s Director of Emergency Response, said, “The most important measures in oil-spill preparedness are the preventative ones. Good coordination across neighboring countries and various organizations is essential to respond swiftly and capably to major spill incidents.  Indeed, multi stakeholder efforts to conduct joint spill exercises like SCOPE 2017 will help to improve our spill response strategies.”

The NCA draws on many resources during an emergency, including a myriad of different national and international organisations, personnel, systems, equipment and procedures. Also, the Norwegian authorities have signed co-operation agreements for oil spill response with all their neighbouring states.

“I am pleased to say the SCOPE 2017 exercise went as planned and demonstrated our collective readiness and capabilities in the event of such an occurrence. I wish to thank all stakeholders – government agencies, the EU, ship operators and public and private sector resource units – for making this exercise possible. It demonstrates that we, together, have well coordinated and competent response teams on all levels,” said Ly.

Dare to fail

Speaking on the sidelines of the exercise, NCA director Kirsti Slotsvik emphasised that SCOPE was a learning exercise and not just a test. “Rapid response in the case of a major is crucial and that requires planning and dedicated response teams. To be prepared for a real accident we need to train and exercise together. It was important for those who participated in SCOPE to dare to fail and then talk about it because this the best way to learn as it allows for a better exchange of experience and expertise.”

NCA’s Stig Walhstrøm, project manager for the exercise echoed this saying, SCOPE is a good opportunity for us to hone our response strategies and share best practices. Indeed, there’s been a high level of learning and competence sharing throughout the planning phase and actual exercise.”

The exercise operation lasted three days and included procedural workshops on notification and request for assistance, claims management and places of refuge for ships, which are not normally included in other exercises. Also, it was noteworthy not just for the multinational involvement but the number of participants and assets deployed.

Comprehensive multinational involvement

Fourty four nations were represented, with over 600 people involved in the exercise, including 90 observers from around the globe. Thirty participating organisations took direct part in operations, with 18 large vessels, including the LPG carrier Clipper Harald, donated generously to the Norwegian authorities by the shipowner Solvang and charterer Statoil.

Edvin Endresen, chief executive officer at Solvang commented: “We strongly believe in the need for regular training in incident and emergency response handling, so we saw the chance to participate in such a large, complex exercise as a good opportunity to test our own systems and processes.”

“A major oil spill in a coastal area is considered as one of the top risks here at Statoil,” said Ketil Johansen, HSEQ manager at Statoil and added, “We recognise the importance of never becoming complacent or satisfied with our proactive risk management system. When the opportunity to participate in SCOPE came around, it was natural for us to contribute with our own resources and observers.”

Many of the observers commended the Norwegian authorities for having a well organised and sophisticated emergency response system. United Nations programme co-ordinator for disaster reduction Marisol Estrella commented, “the system is advanced and much of it focuses on organizational aspects. Many countries could benefit from applying the Norwegian model.”

Findings and recommendations

Walhstrøm pointed out that “All participating nations and organisations have taken the opportunity to train in leadership and collaboration, and it’s pleasing to see their strong interest and engagement throughout the exercise, which was carried out with no accidents.”

The SCOPE 2017 exercise, which started after nine months of intensive planning, is now entering the evaluation phase and is expected to continue until the end of 2018.

“We have established an evaluation team and they have been tasked to identify lessons learned and areas of improvements. The findings and recommendations will be made available not to just help strengthen Norway’s spill preparedness but also to improve international responses.

“With this in mind, all participants are encouraged to provide feedback so that the we, collectively, are able to further improve our strategies and practices to raise the overall level of safety in our waters,” concludes Walhstrøm.