ICG conducts marine oil pollution response exercise off PB coast

Report by: 
ROOPA LALL
Port Blair
29 Nov 2017

The Regional  Level Marine Oil Pollution Response Exercise titled ‘Clean Sea - 2017’, was conducted at sea off Port Blair on Wednesday, which was preceded by a table-top exercise yesterday. The objective of the exercise was to ascertain preparedness of the Indian Coast Guard (ICG), resource agencies and other stakeholders in responding to a major oil spill in line with the provisions of NOS-DCP (National Oil Spill Disaster Contingency Plan). The highlight of the exercise was participation of one ICG Pollution Control Vessel (PCV) and integration of Indian Coast Guard Dornier/Chetak aircraft into the Oil Spill Disaster Management System for aerial assessment/ delivery of Oil Spill Dispersant (OSD) for mitigation of the spilled oil. Representatives from various stake holders also participated in the exercise as observers.
The preparedness of all agencies during the exercise was conducted under observation of Coast Guard Regional Commander Inspector General KR Suresh, TM and was overseen by Mr Anindo Majumdar, Chief Secretary (Andaman & Nicobar) embarked onboard Coast Guard Ship Vishwast along with Ms Nuzhat Hassan, DGP, Smt Nabanita Ganguly, Director, Pollution Control Committee and Dr. RD Tripathy, Chief Port Administrator of Port Management Board.
Almost 200 ships cross the 160-km wide straits daily making it among the busiest sea routes of the world. Considering the tanker traffic through this route, the area is highly vulnerable to oil spills. In case of any spill due tanker accident, the likelihood of it reaching the shores of eco-sensitive islands is very high and this may cause irreversible harm to the flora and fauna  o9f the Islands. Besides tanker traffic through six degree channel, ten degree and coco channel also see significant daily traffic of large merchant vessels passing through
The exercise was therefore planned to evaluate the preparedness for Response Operations for any such oil pollution incident in this highly sensitive area. The support and cooperation provided by all stakeholders, is indicative of the resolve and firmness in combating oil spills in such sensitive areas. The exercise was conducted in two phases. A table-top exercise was conducted on November 28. Subsequently, a real-time exercise of oil spill scenario was conducted on November 29  off Port Blair. The exercise evolutions included mobilisation of pollution response resources by various stakeholders in Andaman region, exercising reporting procedures, testing of communication links and threat assessment, recovery of distressed crew from sea, fire fighting assistance by OPVs to disabled merchant tanker, deployment of pollution response equipment for containment and recovery of spilled oil, transfer of recovered oil to barges for transportation to port/ shore reception facility coordinated by Pollution Control Board and demonstration of Dispersant Spray capabilities by the Coast Guard Interceptor Boats, Fast Patrol Vessels, Pollution Control Vessels, Chetak Helicopter and Dornier.
Seven ICG ships and two aircraft including one PCV, OPV, Chetak helicopter and Dornier aircraft each, Merchant Vessel Manav Star and one Tug from PMB participated in the exercise. Further, a total of 19 participants from nine stakeholders and resource agencies participated in the table-top exercise.            Exercise ‘Clean Sea’ validated and reinforced response mechanism for Oil Pollution incidents and enabled Indian Coast Guard to fine tune the actions required in such eventualities by improving coordination and communication with different agencies. All out efforts are being made with the synergy of stakeholders through such exercises to extend GoI policy of “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” to Maritime Zones of India through “Swachh Sagar Abhiyan” also, as 64% of world oil trade pass through the Andaman Sea. Representatives from electronic and print media also witnessed the exercise.