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30/05/2018 01:41 PM

Port Authority of NSW leads multi-agency exercise in Port Kembla

Emergency services teams gear up for a full-scale exercise to help protect the port from potential marine incidents.

A massive emergency drill took place in Port Kembla recently that saw Port Authority of NSW lead a full-scale multi-agency operation to protect the port from a simulated oil spill and fire.

The emergency drill, codenamed ‘Exercise Whale’, simulated a significant maritime incident in which a large visiting vessel caught fire, causing a severe oil spill within the port.

An incident on this scale requires a similar-sized response and Port Authority led the multi-agency exercise with a team of dozens of emergency responders drawn from Port Authority's own marine operations team, Fire and Rescue NSW, NSW Police, NSW Ports, Svitzer, the Environmental Protection Authority, Park Fuels, and the Local Emergency Management team.

On a beautiful May morning, all parties got together for an early briefing before the exercise began. Just after 9am, the call was in and Port Authority’s Vessel Traffic Information Centre (VTIC), the ‘air traffic control’ of the port, geared into action to communicate the situation to other emergency services and other port stakeholders.

A bright orange smoke flare was set off on the Port’s bulk liquids berth on the northern breakwater to simulate a ship on fire and Fire and Rescue NSW raced two fire engines and hazmat support vehicles to the scene to begin fighting the ‘fire’ from land.

Port Kembla

The VTIC team then called in the support of two firefighting tugs, which made their way to the scene to blast the affected area with powerful jets of water.

Meanwhile, a NSW Police patrol vessel from the Marine Area Command controlled the area around the incident while a Port Authority cutter vessel — usually reserved for transferring marine pilots to large ships — acted as eyes and ears on the water to help coordinate the response.

Port Kembla

With the ‘fire’ under control, Port Authority emergency response teams deployed their oil spill booms into the water and positioned them into place to contain the spill and surround it on two sides: protecting both the port and the open ocean in the process.

Port Kembla

Months in the making, the exercise was coordinated by Port Authority’s deputy harbour master in Port Kembla, who said the exercise was a success in testing the port’s emergency response capabilities and collaboration between agencies.

Port Kembla

Port Authority of New South Wales is part of a network of organisations that work together to protect our coastline and port environments from maritime incidents, including oil spills

People of ports: meet Port Kembla’s Deputy Harbour Master, Roger Kirk

Through the Port Safety Operating Licence set by the NSW Government, one of Port Authority’s primary roles is to respond to all port-related incidents within Sydney Harbour, Port Botany, Port Kembla, Newcastle Harbour, Port of Eden and Port of Yamba.

Port Authority is also the lead agency for responses to maritime incidents and marine pollution from Fingal Head, Port Stephens all the way down to Gerroa, Seven Mile Beach, south of Port Kembla. It operates a fleet of vessels and specialised equipment used for fire-fighting, oil spill response, salvage and vessel assistance anywhere in these waters.

Port Kembla

Find out more about how Port Authority responds to emergencies and marine incidents