Boom time in oil spill drill

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Jersey’s tanker berth got ‘Tangoed’ this morning as Jersey Electricity and Whitaker Tankers conducted an oil spillage exercise code-named Orange because hundreds of oranges were cast into the water to simulate a heavy fuel oil spillage during the discharge of the tanker Whitonia.

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Director of John H Whitaker Tankers Ashley Jenkins said: ‘We have found oranges to be the most environmentally friendly way of simulating the movement of an oil slick and enable predictive tracking in real time tidal and weather conditions. They can move very quickly and sometimes against the tide. A rapid response is critical’

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Once the alert had been raised, the emergency plan was tested and immediate attempts made to contain the spillage by Jersey Electricity staff ashore and the Whitonia crew who deployed their 60m emergency skirt boom around the vessel to limit the ‘pollution’ in the water.

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Mr Jenkins added; ‘In the event of a spillage in the UK, the Harbour Master is responsible for managing the clean-up operations and the polluter pays later. We conduct these exercises a couple of times a year  throughout the UK and there is a “golden hour” in which to respond effectively as oil will spread out as thin a sheet of paper very fast. 

We found during our exercises that harbour authorities sometimes weren’t able to respond fast enough so we bought our own boom which we can deploy in minutes to contain a spillage until “the cavalry arrives”.’

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Today’s operation was under the guidance of Whitonia Captain Martin Dyko and Jersey Electricity’s Operations Engineer Andy De La Cour with the support of Jersey Harbours. With the first batch of oranges safely corralled within 15 minutes in spite of a failure of the outboard motor on the boom-handling rescue craft, Captain Martin ordered more crates of oranges to be released to simulate a wider ‘slick’. And as an extra test, the Whitonia crew called on Ports of Jersey work boat ‘Halcyon’  to come to the aid of the temporarily stricken rescue craft.

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The Whitonia was in Jersey to delivery 2,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil and 1,000 tonnes of gas oil (diesel) which it does at the rate of 300 tonnes an hour. The exercise was to simulate a spillage of three tonnes and was designed to satisfy Jersey Electricity’s obligations under COMAH Regulations – Control of Major Accident Hazards. 

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JE’s Operations Director Mark Preece said: ‘Now we have three undersea power links to France importing clean, low carbon electricity to Jersey, oil tanker deliveries are a rare occurrence for us. But we continue to maintain La Collette on-Island generating plant in case of emergencies and that requires that we maintain safe and secure oil handing and oil storage measures.

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‘COMAH Regulations are not statutory in Jersey, but we have agreed to voluntarily adopt these UK standards and this exercise is just one of several measures we have implemented to comply with COMAH standards.’

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