Oil spill training hones response

Safe Seas Clean Seas Issue 48, June 2015

Oil spills came thick and fast in February, when regional council representatives gathered for the Regional On-Scene Commander (ROSC) training course, held by Maritime NZ’s Marine Pollution Response Services (MPRS) team at the office in Te Atatu.

The course, one of two held this year, involves a small amount of class work but is primarily exercise-based, with attendees taking turns to act as ROSC for a series of increasingly complex scenarios. The pace is hectic, with up to 10 exercises over five days.

The exercises aim to create situations that are as realistic as possible, with the responsibility on the ROSC to direct the early phases of a Tier 2 (regional) oil spill response. A range of factors must be considered, including the trajectory of the oil spill, resources and equipment available, and the impact on wildlife and the environment.

Jim Tetlow
Eastern Bay of Plenty Emergency Management Coordinator, Jim Tetlow, leads an exercise.
Maritime New Zealand ©2020

To add to the pressure, a number of interjects add unexpected elements part way through each exercise, and ROSCs must front up for a filmed interview.

Practical exercises and interaction with the other participants was a really effective way to learn, says Eastern Bay of Plenty Emergency Management Co-ordinator and ROSC trainee, Jim Tetlow.

“The course helped me refine my leadership style and put into practice the processes that I spend most of my time teaching others to do. It offered a great opportunity to learn more about the operational detail of an oil spill response and gain knowledge from all the people involved.”

Exercise Leader and National On-Scene Commander, Mick Courtnell, says the most valuable part of the training was watching a group of individuals ‘gel’ into an effective team.

“They’re all talented guys who are experts in their day-to-day roles, but at the end of the day oil spill response is a team effort. It’s great to see that element fall into place as the participants become more comfortable with each other and their responsibilities.”

Under the Maritime Transport Act 1994, Maritime NZ is responsible for providing and coordinating training for those involved in oil spill response, and the regular assessment and review of the overall regional response capability.

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