MUSCAT — The Sohar Industrial Port Company (SIPC) in co-operation with Oman PESCO LLC, which is specialised in environmental protection and oil spill response services, conducted a live oil spill response exercise in order to test the emergency preparedness and response capabilities of the Port. The exercise saw the participation of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs, Sohar Environmental Unit, Royal Oman Police, C-Steinweg and other Port of Sohar Tenants.
The exercise scenario featured an imaginary spill that resulted from a rupture in the transfer line due to excessive pressure while a vessel alongside the berth was conducting a bunkering operation. Upon receiving the spill notification, the Port Coordination Centre notified the Emergency Duty Coordinator (EDC).
The EDC then activated emergency protocols and notified stakeholders and relevant parties. A specialised committee attended the scene of incident in order to assess the situation. Based on the results of the assessments, a response strategy and an incident action plan were formulated. In line with the incident action plan, the oil spill response team from Oman PESCO was immediately mobilised to site.
Upon arrival of the response team, on-scene command post was established and site setup was completed. Following that, deployment of containment and protection floating booms commenced in order to contain the oil slick around the vessel. Heavy booms were deployed in order to secure the port approach channel to prevent oil slicks from spreading outside the port basin.
Oil skimmers and recovery units were deployed to collect the spilt oil from the water which was then pumped to fast intervention storage tanks on the shore-side. Marine support units were utilised to tow the containment booms and to provide logistical support.
Coast Guard patrol boats secured the area of operations, while ROP units including civil defence and ambulance were present on the shore-side staging area.
The SIPC Emergency Management Team and the Oman PESCO Oil Spill Response Team executed assigned tasks in a highly professional and timely manner which gained the appreciation and satisfaction of the specialised observers and visitors from participating authorities and port tenants.
Lieutenant Colonel Juma’a al Sa’adi, the Officer In-charge of the Oil & Gas Installation Security Police Station in Sohar Industrial Port, said that it is very important that such exercises are conducted in industrial areas and ports in order to test the level of emergency preparedness and to develop the capabilities of participants. He also said that the continuity of emergency exercises is essential. “The exercise was very good, and the level of preparedness that was displayed by both, Port of Sohar and the response company was distinguished”, he said suggesting that the next exercise address a tier-2 spill incident (national level).
Suwaid al Shamaisi, Executive Manager of Corporate Affairs for the Sohar Industrial Port Company, stated: “In line with the social responsibility that the Sohar Industrial Port is committed to, this exercise has been planned and executed”. Al Shamaisi indicated that the primary objective of this exercise was to verify the level of preparedness for dealing with oil spill incidents. During the exercise, the ability of the response organisation to mobilise and deploy response resources in a timely manner was tested. He also added “the exercise was a good platform to enhance the interaction and co-operation between the various stakeholders and relevant parties”.
Al Shamaisi also said that this exercise is only the first in a series of exercises aimed at enhancing emergency preparedness and that exercises of different tiers shall be conducted on regular basis. “I would like to thank all those who participated in planning and executing the exercise. The level of co-operation and participation was very good. Such exercises greatly contribute to the development of trained cadres that are able to deal with incidents on the national scale”, he added.
Eng. Abdul Hakeem al Harthy from the Oil Pollution Operations Centre at the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs, said: “It is well known that oil spill incidents can have catastrophic consequences on the environment. As such, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs has established the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP). The national strategy established in the NOSCP also covers multi-organisation response exercises. This exercise was very good which was in-line with the NOSCP; we certainly encourage such exercises”.
Ayman M Naguib, Crisis Management and Oil Spill Response Consultant praised the exercise.
He said: “Port of Sohar adopts a serious policy based on scientific methodologies that warrant the necessary level of preparedness to deal with various emergency situations, including oil spills. The policy adopted by the Port is based on sound emergency planning and proactive measures rather than reactive response”. He also added: “The response framework adopted by the Port relies on the development of trained and qualified response cadres in addition to the provision of specialised response equipment in line with international standards. Furthermore, a comprehensive training and exercising programme has been designed to cover both Port and Tenants’ personnel”. The effectiveness of this policy was evident during this very successful exercise that we witnessed today. It goes without a doubt that Port of Sohar is currently leading the way towards establishing credible response mechanisms within the maritime sector in the Sultanate”.
This exercise which was code named Northern Star 1, confirms that Sohar Industrial Port take their environmental responsibilities seriously and that the Port’s management is committed to maintaining emergency preparedness and response capabilities to the highest international standards. SIPC considers the protection and preservation of the pristine Omani environment as utmost priorities.