Shell’s Port Jackson facility came under a 'terrorist attack' today as part of an oil spill containment exercise designed to hone the skills of a range of emergency response agencies. Ports and Waterways Minister Joe Tripodi said the aim of the exercise was to test the response of a number of key agencies to a 'Tier 2' oil spill, or a spill of between ten and 10,000 tonnes of oil.
'The exercise replicated an emergency response to a simulated terrorist attack on Shell’s Gore Bay terminal,' Mr Tripodi said. 'Up to 30 operational personnel were involved using a range of oil spill equipment such as containment booms, skimmers and specialised oil recovery vessels.
'The response also tested fire fighting capabilities and there were a number of 'medical evacuations' over a period of nearly 10 hours.' Mr Tripodi said a 'desktop scenario', which planned a response to a similar incident, was conducted with Sydney Ports, Shell and several other emergency agencies earlier this month.
In addition to maintaining safe navigation in the ports for commercial shipping, Sydney Ports has responsibility for responding to marine-based emergencies and for controlling, cleaning up and investigating any spills on Sydney Harbour and Botany Bay. 'As well as conducting regular exercises to ensure we’re well prepared for emergencies and oil spills, Sydney Ports also conducts random safety audits to minimise the chance of such incidents,' Mr Tripodi said.
The Minister said during the 2007/08 financial year, Sydney Port officers carried out 1,503 audits on vessels transferring bulk oil, gas and chemicals. There were 5,647 refuelling operation inspections and 117 container terminal audits. 'The Rees Government takes its responsibility to protect our waterways very seriously, and is doing all it can to ensure we have the best preventative and response programs in place to achieve this.'
Last year Sydney Ports responded to 191 reported incidents of marine pollution. It also assisted 11 ships experiencing difficulty in bad weather and seven recreational vessels with fires on board.