As part of its on-going commitment to manage incidents in the harbour, Poole Harbour Commissioners (PHC) simulated a major oil spill to test the current capability and processes for response to a tier two hydrocarbon spill.

The major emergency exercise, which PHC carries out every three years, staged a scenario whereby a ferry and a cargo vessel collided, causing fuel to spill from the tank of the cargo vessel.

PHC worked in collaboration with more than 15 organisations, including the MCA, Environment Agency and local authorities to carry out the exercise.

As part of PHC’s response, a number of booms were deployed in the Little and Backwater channels. In a real oil spill situation, the boom would stop any oil flowing into sensitive and environmental areas of the Harbour. A skimmer was also deployed to show how the oil would be captured.

Although a major oil spill in Poole Harbour is very unlikely, it is important that such risk is assessed with a plan in place to respond to such an incident, especially in an environmentally sensitive area as Poole Harbour. The plan is approved by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

Harbour Master, Captain Brian Murphy said: “These exercises are vitally important to ensure that Poole Harbour Commissioners’ highly trained personnel are prepared to deal with such an unfortunate event professionally and swiftly, plus minimise any health risk, damage to the environment and to ensure business continuity.

“They allow us to test our plan against various scenarios with the aim of gaining experience and improving preparedness and improving the plan itself.  These exercises will provide the harbour community with confidence in the knowledge that Poole Harbour Commissioners and other organisations will be prepared in the event of a major oil spill in Poole Harbour.”