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Exercise Barossa—Adelaide 11 June 1998

Exercise Barossa was a biannual oil spill response exercise conducted in Adelaide under our National Plan to Combat Pollution of the Sea by Oil and Other Noxious and Hazardous Substances.

Exercise Barossa was the third biannual oil spill response exercise conducted under the auspices of Australias National Plan to Combat Pollution of the Sea by Oil and Other Noxious and Hazardous Substances. The two previous exercises were conducted in Gladstone 24 and 25 May 1994 (Exercise Capricorn), and Melbourne 5 and 6 June 1996 (Exercise George Bass).

Foreword

The exercise steering committee decided that with the experience gained from the two previous exercises, Exercise Barossa would be held over a 15 hour period in order to focus more closely on the exercise aims and objectives, and to replicate the demands and pressures which occur in those first vital 12 to 15 hours of a genuine oil spill.

Exercise Barossa achieved the aims and objectives which were laid down early in the exercise planning process while at the same time identifying positive outcomes and areas in need of further attention. One positive outcome was the way in which personnel from disparate agencies, both State and interstate, government and industry worked together in responding to the demands of the scenario. Of particular note was the way government and industry representatives from the National response team worked with and provided support to the primary and lead agencies, South Australian Transport and South Australian Ports Corporation respectively.

In identifying areas in needs of attention, all members of the exercise steering committee are unanimous in their view that it is far better to identify problem areas in the course of an exercise than in a genuine incident. An exercise provides participants with time to pause, reflect and address issues in need of attention, a luxury not always provided for during the response to a genuine incident.

The exercise proved the value of having a team of experienced personnel from government and industry agencies work together to write the scenario and manage the exercise. The individuals concerned were able to consolidate their extensive knowledge and experience to develop a scenario, which was realistic, and to prepare sufficient inputs to ensure momentum was maintained for the fifteen hours duration of the exercise.

Special thanks is extended to the Maritime Safety Authority of New Zealand (MSANZ) for making Paul Irving available as a member of the exercise steering committee and special thanks also to the three international umpires, Mr Dick Fricke (Mobil USA), Mr Ian Wilson (Mobil New Zealand) and Captain Ian Niblock (MSANZ). Thanks also to those who provided the committee with support; John Osborne (AMSA Port Adelaide), Paul Clarke (Port of Brisbane Corporation), Robert Lea (NSW Office of Marine Administration) and Sandy Galbraith (Lloyds List) were just some who worked hard to ensure the success of the exercise. A final thanks is extended to all umpires and observers who took the time to attend and comment on the exercise and the Exercise Barossa response team for their efforts. We are sure that the lessons learned will stand South Australian agencies and individuals in good stead should they experience a major oil spill.

Ray Lipscombe
Chair
Exercise Barossa Steering Committee
Australian Maritime Safety Authority

Captain John Turnbull
Vice Chair
Exercise Barossa Steering Committee
Marine Board of Victoria

Captain Walter Stuart
Chair, South Australian Marine Pollution Committee
State Oil Spill Commander
South Australian Department of Transport

Executive summary

Exercise Barossa successfully achieved its primary objective of testing the response to an oil spill, which threatened environmental damage to the seas and coastline of South Australia. In achieving its primary objective, the state oil spill contingency plan was exercised and the relationships between the key response agencies were fully tested.

A range of factors contributed to the success of the exercise, including:

Exercise planning

The exercise control team, comprised individuals with a broad range of skills and experience who had met several times in the three months prior to the actual exercise. Their individual and team contribution led to the development of a comprehensive scenario and set of inputs aimed at testing the key areas of an oil spill response.

Exercise scenario

The exercise scenario was relatively simple, could have occurred in real life, and focussed on the relationships between the key response agencies. It was comprehensive enough to test the collective response from these various agencies. 

Exercise control

The exercise control team was located in a separate centre to the response team but was close enough to the action to monitor progress. At one stage it became necessary to call time out from the exercise in order to focus the response team on the task at hand. The time out was handled well and with minimum disruption to the work of the response team.

Exercise value

A number of Exercise Barossa participants had well developed oil spill response experience. However, the true value of the exercise will not become fully apparent until the majority of individuals involved in Barossa have to respond to an actual spill of the type depicted in the scenario. Exercise controllers, players, umpires and observers all had the opportunity to learn from the experience. Conversations with numerous people at the debrief, and the debrief comments themselves, indicate that all personnel involved had taken full advantage of the opportunity presented to them.

The range of collective backgrounds and geographic spread of all personnel involved in the exercise meant that the learning experience was not limited to personnel from South Australia, and that full advantage had been taken of the learning opportunity for persons from out of State and overseas.

Outcomes and recommendations

In any oil spill response, whether it is for real or an exercise, there are always many lessons learnt and none of the following comments are to be taken in any way as personal criticism of anyone or their organisation. They are made as a way of ensuring that the National, state and territory oil spill contingency plans can be continuously improved thereby allowing all involved to constantly hone and improve their response skills.

Outcome—command and control structure

From the outset of the exercise there was not a clear command and control structure. The senior roles were at times all performed by the one person. There was also no command structure promulgated until some four hours after commencement of the exercise. When the command structure was eventually displayed it was confusing as two differing structures were displayed side by side.

The on scene coordinator (OSC) was not given the opportunity to perform his duties. Both the oil spill commander and his deputy were directing the tactical response and effectively taking the OSC out of the operation. The OSC was based in an area very close to the incident control room and this no doubt affected the situation. In a genuine spill response it is unlikely that the incident control centre and the office of the OSC would ever be located so closely together.

Recommendation 1

The roles of the oil spill commander, state chairman and on scene coordinator should be clearly delineated and at the start of a response those appointed should be named and clearly identifiable. A suitable notice should be posted in the incident control centre identifying the persons carrying out the relevant tasks and a copy forwarded to AMSA Canberra.

Outcome—role of national response team (NRT)

There was some initial confusion about the roles and functions of the NRT by South Australian response agencies. Two umpires considered that members of the NRT tended to take over areas of the operational response. However, others considered the action taken by the NRT was appropriate.

Integration of the NRT members into the response team, and the subsequent interface and cooperation was excellent. This proved to be a key component of the response as prior to the NRTs arrival the response had lacked direction. The NRT was able to prompt and advise on strategic, tactical, operational and environmental matters, which improved the cohesiveness of the response.

The South Australian oil spill commander considered that overall the NRT involvement was supportive of the local response team, appropriate, well managed and reflected the professionalism of the various individuals involved.

Recommendation 2 

Response agencies should be familiar with the role and function of the NRT as spelt out in the National Plan Management Manual (1996), which states: 

Members of the NRT are available to provide support across all response disciplines to the Commonwealth and the States/Northern Territory and lead agencies in the event of a major pollution incident. 

These provisions should be included in oil spill contingency plans.

Outcome—briefings, situation reports and information status boards

The first briefing was not held until some two hours into the exercise and from then on briefings tended to be haphazard and not scheduled. Only one situation report was sent and the status boards in the incident control centre were not updated regularly. The initial spill information was still on the status boards at the next days debriefing.

Recommendation 3

The initial briefing should occur as soon as possible and then be followed by regular updates to keep everyone advised of the situation. Written situation reports should be promulgated at regular intervals and the status boards should be regularly updated.

Outcome—state plan

It was noted that the current South Australian oil spill contingency plan has been in draft form for the past eighteen months and that it needs bringing into line with the current National Plan advisory committee (NPAC) format. It does not have a safe havens policy, which is an outstanding recommendation from previous exercises.

Recommendation 4

The South Australian oil spill contingency plan should be finalised in the NPAC endorsed format and a safe havens policy developed in line with previous recommendations.

Outcome—Response strategy

There was an opportunity to pay more attention to the important areas of spill response planning and strategic development, particularly in the initial stages of the response. 

As early as the initial briefing at 0440 hrs (CST) the response team had vital information available, which would have allowed them to develop a response action plan. 

Information on the physical characteristics of the spilled oil, currents, tides and weather could have been used to make a more thorough assessment using spill modelling and oil weathering prediction tools.

The assessment could then have been measured against the contingency plan and the available response options in order to develop a strategy and a set of response objectives. These objectives could then have become a focus for the response team and they could have measured their subsequent achievements against the objectives.

Key decisions made along the way need to be documented to provide a clear paper trail to support the response strategy, objectives and operational decisions. More importantly it allows the response team to move out of the early reactive stage and into a proactive response mode earlier than was achieved during the exercise.

Recommendation 5

A procedure for the development of incident specific response action plans should be incorporated into oil spill contingency plans. 

Outcome—administration and logistics support

Resources for key functional areas within the incident control centre—eg planning, logistics, administrative support, financial and media support—were inadequate for the scale of the response mounted during the exercise. This led to personnel being unable to perform their tasks properly due to the unrealistic workload. 

Management meetings tended to remove most of the key response personnel from the incident control centre, which fuelled the problem of under resourcing.

Failure to provide these resources quickly led to a dysfunctional unit that was unable to provide the support needed.

Recommendation 6

Adequate resources to operate an administration and logistics support group need to be pre-identified. 

Outcomefinancial control and record keeping

Financial controls and tracking, documentation and record keeping were inadequate during the exercise and this area should be urgently addressed. A system that can support the response team with real time information and provide documentation to support expenditure and key response decisions is essential. Failure to do so could result in being unable to substantiate costs when the time comes to settle any resulting claims.

Recommendation 7

A financial system for control and tracking of costs incurred in an oil spill should be developed and incorporated into oil spill contingency plans.

Outcomemedia

There were no dedicated facilities for media conferences with the provision of status boards, seating and other amenities. No phone, fax or printer was available, at least in the early stages. The media office was undermanned and inadequate for such an exercise and the media manager had little or no support. There appeared to be no system in place, nor any plan or brief as to how to handle the media in an emergency situation.

The media can in these circumstances be turned into an ally if properly handled. Getting accurate information out to the general public is important and this can be done by supplying the media with visual aids, such as maps of the areas affected, details of the ship and illustrations of the damage to the vessel so that it can be easily understood. Our Canberra media unit could have been called in to assist.

In future exercises, there should be a greater number of professional media participants. It was difficult for the one media representative to properly simulate the situation as the hours passed. Working alone he was forced to restrict calls to individuals to a much lesser extent than they would have been exposed to in a real incident. While there were a few others on the exercise occasionally simulating media input, it was clear that this is an area that needs bolstering in future exercises if it is to really test the system. There was a notable lack of enquiry from media, environmentalists and the public during the exercise.

Recommendation 8

Response agencies should have adequate resources to deal with the media, and briefing of the media should take place in an appropriate area away from the incident control centre.

Outcomedispersant application

The opportunity for the use of dispersants did not receive the attention it should have done. The lack of strategic and operational planning again let this area of the response down. 

The light arabian crude used for the scenario presented a limited window of opportunity for dispersant application and this should have been recognised earlier through the use of response tools such as the oil weathering prediction program.

There was a lack of site specific planning and coordination, which resulted in spraying runs over shallow water close to bird habitats.

Recommendation 9

Strategic and operational planning for the use of dispersant should be treated with priority during the initial stages of any spill to gain the maximum use of any window of opportunity for utilising dispersants.

Outcomeoccupational health and safety (OH&S)

There was no OH&S plan developed to address the following:

  • Appointment of an overall safety co-ordinator. 
  • Utilisation of safe practices in the incident control centre and in the field. 
  • Development of emergency procedures covering safety zones, safety for all team members and identification of first aid personnel. 
  • Responsibilities for and commitment to legislated responsibilities. 

An OH&S plan for the response operations had not been developed by the time the exercise was completed. Heavy equipment was being handled and waterborne operations underway at a very early stage of the response with there being significant risk of personal injury. There was no detailed plan in place for preventative measures, or for that matter, treating casualties. There was insufficient time given to the process of identification of hazards, reporting breaches of safety and rectifying problems. 

Recommendation 10

Site specific OH&S plans should be developed early for each operational component of the response.

Outcomeshoreline assessment and cleanup

The recognition of the need for shoreline assessment and cleanup came later than was desirable and reflected the lack of strategic and operational planning early in the response.

Problems identified in regard to shoreline assessment in previous incidents and exercises were evident in this exercise. There did not appear to be a clear understanding of who should be responsible for undertaking assessments of oiled shorelines. 

Recommendation 11

Clear strategic and operational planning and the identification of equipment and personnel requirements for any shoreline assessment and cleanup should receive priority attention.

Outcomeenvironmental and scientific coordinator (ESC) issues

The ESC attempted to do too much of the work himself instead of delegating key tasks to others. He should have used his time to ensure smooth communication of outcomes to the OSC or incident control centre, and the rest of the response team, facilitating his teams and ensuring that the teams were effectively covering all the tasks required. 

The evaluation of oiling of foreshores was completely overlooked until late in the exercise. Even then there was confusion between the ESC and individuals within the command group about who was able to take control of the foreshore evaluation. Once that confusion was resolved and the responsibility delegated, the foreshore evaluation occurred quickly and efficiently. 

Recommendation 12

The role of the ESC requires clarification to enable this person to take more of an environmental and scientific facilitation role. 

Outcomewildlife response

There was a well executed wildlife response, however this was mainly due to the skilled people involved at all levels. An international umpire reported the bird rescue equipment as being the best he had seen. Many of the excellent actions were initiated more by the various officers experience than by adherence to the South Australian oil spill contingency plan. However, there was no integration with the overall management of the oil spill response. 

Recommendation 13

State oil spill contingency plans should fully integrate wildlife requirements.

Outcomecoastal resource atlas

South Australia does not have an effective Coastal resource atlas in that the hard copy maps available were of such a small scale as to be virtually useless. The response team paid little attention to the maps and relied entirely on personal knowledge.

Recommendation 14 

The South Australian coastal resource atlas needs further development to produce a more useful spill management tool.

Outcomeliaison with scientific and environmental agencies and stakeholders

This was particularly poorly done. Most input from the exercise controllers was actively ignored. This is not in the spirit of an exercise and a sure recipe for disaster in an actual spill.

Recommendation 15

Procedures should be developed to enable response agencies to deal effectively with concerned stakeholders, including community groups, general public and affected industries.

Introduction

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority, South Australian authorities, the oil industry and other National Plan agencies conducted Exercise Barossa in Adelaide on 11 June 1998. It was a combined desktop and equipment deployment exercise and was followed up by an in depth debriefing over the morning of 12 June. 

1.1 Purpose 

The purpose of Exercise Barossa was to activate and test National Plan oil spill response arrangements, both within South Australia and nationally, and to assess the effectiveness of the South Australian oil spill contingency plan.

1.2 Exercise planning

An exercise steering committee was established to develop and conduct Exercise Barossa. The committee comprised representatives from:

  • Australian Maritime Safety Authority (Chair). 
  • Marine Board of Victoria (Deputy chair). 
  • Australian Marine Oil Spill Centre. 
  • Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, 
  • Maritime Safety Authority of New Zealand. 
  • Port Kembla Port Corporation. 
  • Queensland Transport. 

1.3 Objectives

The objectives were to conduct a safe and professional exercise which:

  • Tests local, State, Commonwealth and industry oil spill response procedures, contingency plans and lines of communication. 
  • Exercises and enhances skills of all personnel involved in Exercise Barossa. 
  • Tests internal procedures of all participating agencies. 
  • Tests interagency coordination, cooperation and teamwork. 
  • Exercises media liaison and administrative support arrangements. 
  • Tests the strategic and tactical responses to the exercise scenario. 
  • Exercises and tests the ability of environment agencies to: 
    • provide timely and accurate scientific advice in relation to sensitive resources, protection priorities and dispersant use
    • establish effective oiled fauna operations. 
  • Tests national response team call out procedures. 
  • Tests the effectiveness of fixed wing aerial dispersant capability arrangements. 
  • Tests and exercises community and stakeholder liaison procedures. 

1.4 Scenario

On 10 June 1998 the Master of the 61,000 DWT Tanker Southern Mist reported to AusSAR in Canberra that the vessel had suffered a major breakdown of its generator. 

The vessel was on passage from the Arabian Gulf to Cape Reinga in New Zealand for orders loaded with a full cargo of Arabian light crude oil. Essential engine room services were being maintained utilising an auxiliary generator.

It was arranged for the vessel to proceed to Port Adelaide where a portable generator would be loaded onto the vessel by crane, and the vessel would then immediately proceed to sea to resume its voyage.

The pilot boarded Southern Mist at 0245 hrs (CST) Thursday 11 June and commenced entry into Port Adelaide. During the approach the vessel suffered a complete loss of power to the steering machinery which resulted in the vessel exiting the channel and going aground, subsequently impaling herself on the port anchor and puncturing No 1 port cargo tank.

The Master reported to Harbour Control that the vessel had grounded and that there was a smell of oil. Later it was confirmed that approximately 300 tonnes of Arabian light crude oil had leaked into the water. This figure increased to 500 tonnes before the leakage ceased. 

1.5 Agencies involved

A wide group of agencies were involved in the exercise, either as part of the steering group, or as umpires, observers, national response team members, and government and industry representatives. A list of participating officials is attached as appendix 1.

1.6 Responses and comments

A great number of comments were received from umpires and observers and these have been summarised as outcomes together with the recommendations.

Organisation

2.1 Mobilisation

Advice of the incident was first received by the harbour control tower at 0257 hrs (CST) June 11 and news of the casualty was relayed at 0303 hrs (CST) to Captain Walter Stuart, Chair of the South Australian marine pollution committee and the state oil spill commander. Captain Stuart then advised the other state combat committee members and afterwards proceeded to the Adelaide Passenger Terminal, which was designated as the incident control centre.

Captain Stuart arrived at the incident control centre at 0400 hrs (CST).

At 0440 hrs (CST) Captain Stuart briefed the assembled persons regarding the incident and outlined his role as the state oil spill commander, introduced Captain Peter Shipp as deputy spill commander, Captain Phil Hammond as on scene coordinator and Captain Graham Wilson as officer in charge of the casualty. The environment and science coordinator was Peter Pfennig. Ron Hoey was appointed as manager of the incident control centre.

Four areas of concern were expressed, namely:

  • Monitoring of the oil spill and establishing its size. 
  • Local environmental concerns such as mangroves in the river and affected beaches. 
  • Safety of the vessel. 
  • Torrens Island power station cooling intakes. 

2.2 South Australian oil spill contingency plan

Standard operating procedures SOP 1, response to a report of oil spill at sea.

South Australian oil spill contingency plan (draft dated 8 April 1998) which includes:

  • South Australian response and clean up priorities. 
  • South Australian oil spill contingency plan checklists. 
  • South Australian safety guidance material, communications plan, field sitrep proforma and wildlife proforma. 

2.3 Commonwealth arrangements

AMSA-Marine Environment Protection Services (MEPS) in Canberra received initial advice of the incident at 0415 hrs EST (0345 hrs CST) and within one hour the MEPS team had assembled in the Canberra office for briefing. 

By 0530 hrs (CST) the team had moved into high level briefing mode advising AMSA senior officers and government officials of the situation. 

By 0600 hrs (CST) five of the MEPS staff were en route to Adelaide by air in response to the oil spill commanders request to assist the response team as NRT members. Five additional NRT members were mobilised by AMSA to proceed to the response scene; three from Queensland Transport and one each from Newcastle Port Corporation and Gippsland Ports. The AMSA Canberra operation then moved into logistics mode notifying and/or activating the following organisations and personnel:

  • Australian Maritime Resources (fixed wing aerial response capability). 
  • East Asia Response Ltd. 
  • Australian Marine Oil Spill Centre Ltd. 
  • Media, legal, finance and administration personnel.

Response

3.1 Notification

At 0257 hrs (CST) Thursday 11 June 1998 the Panamanian tanker Southern Mist carrying 52,000 tonnes of light Arabian crude oil, ran aground close to the southern side of the outer harbour breakwater at Port Adelaide after suffering a complete loss of power to the steering machinery. Initial indications were that the ship had suffered bottom damage and approximately 300 tonnes of crude oil had leaked into the sea. 

The Master informed Port Control accordingly and advised that the vessel had grounded and that there was a strong smell of oil. He later advised Harbour control that the vessel had been holed and that there had been a loss of oil cargo of approximately 300 tonnes which subsequently increased to 500 tonnes. 

3.2 Initial response plan

This was developed by the on scene coordinator and covered the following:

  • Personnel and materials for the initial response prior to daybreak. 
  • Deployment of booms in the outer harbour to prevent oil moving up river and booms placed across the entrance to North Haven and Royal SA Yacht Squadron. 
  • Booming of strategic resources as well as around the damaged tanker. 
  • Activation of observation aircraft. 
  • Spraying of dispersant. 

3.3 Action plan for foreshore cleanup

Assessments were made of the foreshore between Semaphore Jetty and the Southern outer harbour breakwater. Also, equipment and personnel requirements for the foreshore clean up were identified.

The beaches were divided up into sections and the clean up method for the four areas was the same, namely:

  1. Put a grader onto the beach and move the oiled sea grass and sand above the high tide mark. 
  2. Have a vacuum truck remove the free oil residing in pools along the beach length, providing the beach is able to sustain the weight of the truck. 
  3. Have front-end loader assist the grader and load into trucks for transportation. 
  4. Have a crew of 10 people and a supervisor to rake up spots into plastic bags. 
  5. Decontamination areas to be identified and set up for clean transfer from shore to public areas, ie Largs Jetty car park. 
  6. Police and/or security to monitor public access to oiled areas. 
  7. Dawn inspection regarding assessment of clean up requirements. 

3.4 State support

At 0455 (CST) the State emergency operations centre (SEOC) was activated in accordance with the standard operating procedures. A briefing of key members of the state disaster committee (SDC) by the state spill commander took place at 1000 (CST), with a request for the SEOC to:

  • develop an air logistics support contingency plan with the RAAF, if commercial aircraft were not available, to uplift equipment resources and consumables from AMOSC
  • arrange for a minimum of 300 persons, including 30 supervisors, to undertake foreshore cleanup commencing the next day
  • provide logistic and welfare support for foreshore cleanup crews. 

At 1600 (CST) the state spill commander and his advisers attended SEOC and briefed the SDC Chair and committee members, including representatives of the Defence Forces and local government, on the situation. Defence advised that two C130 Hercules aircraft were available ex Richmond to uplift AMOSC equipment from Laverton. The SDC advised that it had sourced personnel for foreshore cleanup commencing 0800 (CST) the next day. Administrative arrangements for submitting accounts, and the availability of a treasury financial line for settlement of accounts, were addressed.

The meetings with SDC successfully achieved the objective of involving all agencies of the States infrastructure in supporting the response to a major marine oil spill.

Oil pollution equipment

4.1 Equipment deployed in Exercise Barossa

General area

Emergency response division vessel gallantry rigged for Warren Springs/BP-AB spraying and use as offshore command vessel.

Shoreline booming of north west section of the outer harbour

  • 40 metres structureflex land–sea shoreline protection boom, with 60 metres of slickbar general purpose boom. 
  • 1 off 5 tonne canflex recovered oil tank. 
  • 1 off foilex weir skimmer. 
  • 2 boom deployment vessels. 

Trawling or skimming at outer harbour inside the breakwater

  • Murex oil spill response catamaran assisted by 2 portsCorp launches. 
  • 1 off trelleborg giant troilboom. 
  • 1 off DS 210 weir skimmer. 
  • 1 off 25 tonne lancer recovered oil barge. 

Skimming operations inside breakwater (off No 1 outer harbour) 

  • DIP1003 (Mullo) self-propelled oil recovery vessel. 
  • EGMOPOL self-propelled recovery vessel. 
  • 1 off 10 tonne flexidam (for discharging the self-propelled recovery vessels). 

Wildlife response

  • 1 off wildlife response trailer unit set up within No 1 shed with wildlife response team. 

Additional equipment

A range of equipment held by government and industry, located at intra and inter State locations was notionally mobilised for exercise purposes.

4.2 Equipment mobilised for deployment

  • 600 metres of slickbar general purpose boom on standby for ship booming. 
  • 1 off OMI 260 rope mop skimmer for outer harbour skimming operations. 
  • 700 metres of structureflex land–sea shoreline protection boom for booming of sandbars and the mangrove system at Barker Inlet. 
  • 2 off transpac recovered oil containers for oil recovery at ship site. 
  • 200 metres of GP500 general purpose boom for booming of North Haven Marina. 
  • 200 metres of maximax general purpose boom for booming of yacht squadron. 
  • 2 off shoreline cleanup trailers. 

The above equipment was mobilised for deployment but the actual weather conditions prevailing throughout Exercise Barossa precluded actual deployment.

Umpires and observers' comments

Three international and thirteen national umpires representing government and industry agencies were appointed to report on a range of activities, including strategic, operational and environmental planning issues. Five observers also submitted reports.

Comments from both umpires and observers are summarised below.

5.1 Command and control structure

From the outset of the exercise there was not a clear command and control structure. The roles of the state oil spill commander and those of the state chairman and also the on scene coordinator were at times all performed by the one person. There was also no command structure promulgated until some four hours after commencement of the exercise. When the command structure was eventually displayed it was somewhat confusing as two differing structures were displayed side by side.

In addition to the senior roles there was no clear structure showing the positions of other key personnel neither did these staff have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities within the structure.

5.2 On scene coordinator

The on scene coordinator (OSC) was unclear of his duties or simply was not given the opportunity to be allowed to perform those duties.

Both the oil spill commander and his deputy were directing the tactical response and effectively taking the OSC out of the operation. He was based in an area very close to the incident control centre and this no doubt affected the situation. In a real spill response it is highly unlikely the incident control centre and the office of the OSC would ever be located so closely together.

5.3 National response team (NRT)

Integration of the NRT members into the response team, and the subsequent interface and cooperation was excellent. This proved to be a key component of the response asprior to the NRT’s arrival the response had lacked direction. The NRT were able to prompt on strategic planning matters, which improved the cohesiveness of the response.

Two umpires considered members of the NRT had tended to take over areas of the operational exercise and that there was no clear understanding by others of their functions and what their role was. However, on the whole it was considered the process was supportive of the local response team, appropriate, well managed and reflected the professionalism of the various individuals involved.

5.4 Communications

The first briefing was not held until some two hours into the exercise and from then on briefings tended to be haphazard and not scheduled. Only one situation report was sent out and the status boards in the incident control centre were not updated regularly. The initial spill information was still on the status boards at the next day’s briefing.

5.5 South Australian oil spill contingency plan

It was noted that the current South Australian oil spill contingency plan has been in draft form for the past eighteen months and that it needs bringing into line with the current NPAC format. It does not have a safe havens policy, which is an outstanding recommendation from previous exercises.

The plan contains a number of checklists and there did not appear to be any evidence of these being used with the exception of the communications plan. These checklists can be particularly useful in the heat of the moment because it is very easy to overlook a specific action or activity and suffer the consequences later on.

5.6 Response strategy

There was an opportunity to pay more attention to the important areas of spill response planning and strategic development, particularly early in the response.

As early as the initial briefing at 0440 hrs (CST) the response team had vital information available, which would have allowed them to develop a response action plan. Information on the physical characteristics of the spilled oil, currents, tides and weather could have been used to make a more thorough assessment using spill modelling and oil weathering prediction tools.

The assessment could then have been measured against the contingency plan and the available response options in order to develop a strategy and a set of response objectives. These objectives could then have become a focus for the response team and they could have measured their subsequent achievements against the objectives.

The development of operational plans linked to the response objectives could then have been used to define resourcing, equipment, logistics and personnel needs.

Key decisions made along the way need to be documented to provide a clear paper trail to support the response strategy, objectives and operational decisions. More importantly it allows the response team to move out of the early reactive stage and into a proactive response mode earlier than was achieved during the exercise.

5.7 Administration and logistics support

Resources for key functional areas within the incident control centre, eg planning, logistics, administrative support, financial and media support were inadequate for the scale of the response mounted during the exercise. This led to personnel being unable to perform their tasks properly due to the unrealistic workload. Management meetings tended to remove most of the key response personnel from the control centre, which fuelled the problem of under resourcing.

Adequate resources to operate an administration and logistics support group need to be quickly identified and deployed to provide adequate support to the response team.

Failure to provide these resources quickly led to a dysfunctional unit that was not able to provide the support needed.

5.8 Financial control and record keeping

Financial controls and tracking, documentation and record keeping were inadequate during the exercise and this area should be urgently addressed.

It is imperative to provide a system that can support the response team with real time information and provide documentation to support expenditure and key response decisions. Failure to do so could result in being unable to substantiate costs when the time comes to settle any resulting claims.

5.9 Media

5.9.1 Press office

This was undermanned and inadequate for such an exercise. The media manager appeared to be working solo with little or no support. There appeared to be no system in place, nor any plan or brief as to how to handle the media in an emergency situation.

The media office appeared to be thrown together with no phone, fax or printer available, at least in the early stages. There should be dedicated facilities for such emergencies available at all times.

The State organisation needs to examine this area very carefully and consider more closely co-ordinating the Department's media unit with that of the Ports Corporation, AMSA and possibly the oil companies Santos and Mobil, who have direct training in these areas as well as a more detailed knowledge of the industry/safety aspects.

5.9.2 Media briefings

It should be remembered that the media can in these circumstances be turned into an ally if properly handled. Getting accurate information out to the general public is important and this can be done by supplying the media with visual aids, such as maps of the areas affected, details of the ship and illustrations of the damage to the vessel so that it can be easily understood. AMSA's Canberra media unit could have been called in to assist.

5.9.3 Press releases

Press releases should have been issued hourly between the conferences. At noon, a distorted press release was broadcast and it took the media office more than two hours to respond with a release debunking it, during which time the story would have been spread far and wide. It should have been addressed immediately to minimise damage.

5.9.4 Media participants

In future exercises, there should be a greater number of professional media participants. It was difficult for the one media representative to properly simulate the situation as the hours passed. Working alone, he was forced to restrict calls to individuals to a much lesser extent than they would have been exposed to in a real incident. While there were a few others on the exercise occasionally simulating media input, it was clear that this is an area that needs bolstering in future exercises if it is to really test the system. There was a notable lack of enquiry from media, environmentalists and the public during the exercise.

5.9.5 Media conferences

These were handled quite well, but there were several flaws. Firstly, they should have been held at a location away from the incident control centre and such conferences should be held indoors in a well-lit location, with spokespersons sitting at a table close to an exit door. There should be name tabs on the table clearly identifying the name and position of the spokespersons. The media should be seated so as to clearly separate them from the participants with TV cameras placed at least five metres from the table.

Both press conferences gave all the appearance of being hastily arranged. All participants were forced to stand and there was no clear indication given as to the shape and timeframe of the conference. Proper control is required and were there more media available for the exercise, this flaw would have been exposed.

The spokesmen equipped themselves very well in both instances. However, the shortage of professional media meant the line of questioning was restricted.

There was an impression given in the second conference that the spokesmen felt the incident was over and everyone could go home. In reality, they would have faced at least one more conference by the end of the day and probably more the following day.

As to the timing of the press conferences, the first at 0830 hrs (CST) was too soon after the incident, 1000 or 1100 hrs (CST) would have been more appropriate and would have satisfied the media. The second conference only occurred because the media insisted upon it happening. At the end of the first conference, the media should have been told when and where the next conference would be held.

5.9.6 Participants dealing with the media

There were some very positive findings here. In particular the performance of Harbour control was very impressive in the early hours of the morning. Despite vigorous questioning, they responded with a straight bat saying nothing beyond directing enquires to the on scene coordinator. The oil spill commander and his deputy were excellent, possibly overgenerous with their time in dealing with media enquires and should have passed people on to the media office.

Nevertheless, both handled questioning with the necessary balance of authority and courtesy.

5.9.7 Incident control centre

It would perhaps have helped the news stories that were issued every hour had they been posted on a board in the incident control centre to give people there an idea of what message the general public was receiving.

5.10 Occupational health and safety (OH&S)

Health and safety issues were addressed by both the on scene coordinator and team leaders but this was not followed through to the response teams in the field in a consistent manner. The team leaders should have addressed key health and safety issues up front with issues relating to the specific activities being reinforced either from a prepared checklist or from personal knowledge.

The printed OH&S cards would have been more useful if key aspects were explained to the team members rather than just having them available. The danger in giving out such cards is that they will not be read in the heat of the moment.

There were inconsistent standards in the use of personal protective equipment amongst members of different agencies working alongside one another. An example of this was when unloading heavy equipment from transport onto vessels, some personnel were fully kitted out including the wearing of hard hats and alongside them were others with just overalls on.

A comprehensive health and safety plan and site specific OH&S plan for the response operations had not been developed by the time the exercise was completed.

Heavy equipment was being handled and waterborne operations underway at a very early stage of the response with there being significant risk of personal injury with no detailed plan in place for preventative measures, or for that matter, treating casualties. There is an opportunity for a health and safety professional to be added to the core team.

No actual incidents or accidents occurred during the exercise.

5.11 Wildlife response

The environment and science coordinator (ESC) requested the acting wildlife welfare coordinator (WWC) to develop a wildlife plan. This was competently undertaken and handed over to the WWC on his arrival. The acting WWC was well aware of his role, responsibilities and limitations under the plan. After requesting the development of a wildlife plan the ESC did not request any other input of the WWC on matters of prioritisation, or dispersant application. However the umpires may have just missed these requests in the earlier stages of the response.

5.11.1 Prioritisation of sensitive areas

This was undertaken by the ESC early in the response. These priorities were verbally disseminated via command meetings, however these priorities were not logged on the command status boards and did not appear to be updated throughout the course of the exercise. The lack of priority information on the status boards made it difficult for the incoming WWC to ascertain what work had already been done and what wildlife aspects had been considered. There was no clear indication that rareor endangered wildlife status had been used in prioritisation. No rare or endangered species were actually identified throughout the exercise.

There was no consultation with the WWC prior to the application of dispersant. In the early stage of the exercise the WWC and his team were working in isolation from the ESC. The ESC did not regularly request information of the wildlife group and the wildlife group tended to contact the ESC to find out what was happening rather than being briefed or have the information provided through some other means, for example status boards. Time was wasted in information exchange and the Plan did not appear to reference the appropriate format for exchange between the ESC and WWC.

Time was also wasted by the plan not detailing the interaction between wildlife and logistical and operational support. The wildlife group had significant logistical requirements with no guidelines of how to obtain such requirements within the response system.

5.11.2 Equipment deployment

The deployment of the wildlife response trailer was well timed, appropriately located and well set up in the context of an exercise. The RSPCA officers and volunteers involved in trailer deployment and set up were well trained and aware of the requirements under the plan. They were also aware and equipped for safety.

The contents of the wildlife response kit received favourable comment by a number of umpires and observers. The plan did not mention the availability of the AMOSC wildlife kit.

The effective deployment of the wildlife response kit appears to be a product of the increased involvement of the RSPCA in the plan. The RSPCA provided an excellent resource of trained officers who all combined well with the parks and wildlife requirements. A similar relationship should be considered in other states.

5.11.3 Bird rescue equipment

The bird rescue equipment was reported as being the best he had seen by an international umpire. It was functional with most equipment able to be readily replaced or sourced locally.

5.11.4 Wildlife recovery

Weather conditions did not permit water reconnaissance. The provision of rubber ducks by the exercise organisers was an effective test of search and rescue methods. The activity was also promoted by the enthusiasm of the RSPCA officers. The rubber duck rescue demonstrated the difficulties of field work, the logistics of retrieval and highlighted the need fortemporary tagging and exercised record keeping.

5.11.5 Dispersant application

The WWC was not consulted by the ESC prior to the application of dispersant. In particular, there was no consultation prior to application in shallowwaterareas adjacent to the bird roosting areas until the WWC saw what the situation was. There was no documentation on the decision and there was no information on the status boards that allowed the WWC to follow the decision process.

5.11.6 Administration and logistics support

Administration in the incident control centre was not clearly defined. All information was not put on the status boards and kept up to date. Coordinators were not passing messages and communications were ineffectively recorded.

The interaction between wildlife and logistics is not clearly defined in the South Australian oil spill contingency plan and the appropriate use of logistical support should lead to better record keeping and financial control.

5.11.7 Spill and site safety

Members of the wildlife response team were individually aware of safety risks and professional in the use of their equipment. However, there was no formal safety briefing or task analysis prior to commencing fieldwork.

5.12 Environmental issues

5.12.1 Coastal resource atlas

South Australia does not have an effective coastal resource atlas in that the hard copy maps available were of such a small scale as to be virtually useless. The response team paid little attention to the maps and relied entirely on personal knowledge. This can be effective where the response team has the knowledge but is disastrous in cases where local knowledge is non-existent. The lack of any depiction of resources means that very few can understand the issues involved and the spatial arrangement of sensitive areas. This can be a great drawback in briefing sessions or where there is a need to explain decisions.

5.12.2 Determining protection priorities

The environment and science coordinator (ESC) quickly determined protection priorities and conveyed those verbally to the response team. However, these were not summarised and displayed for future reference. The initial priorities were not reassessed later in the exercise.

5.12.3 Waste disposal

Waste disposal was not discussed until about 7 hours into the exercise, and then only in response to enquires from the foreshore team. The Environmental Protection Authority was contacted regarding disposal options but a representative was not brought to the Incident Control Centre nor kept up to date with developments. Consequently this part of the response was not followed through.

5.12.4 Advice to on scene coordinator on response options

The environment and science coordinator advised the control group of response options, however this advice was not recorded so that all could know the current directions.

The response priorities were appropriate, however they deviated from National Plan priorities and no justification for this deviation was provided.

Application of dispersants was advised, but in a manner which contravened State guidelines. This is not necessarily a problem but there was no written justification nor clear maps, charts or instructions showing the nominated areas to use dispersant.

Observations of the aerial applications and recollection of the somewhat vague verbal descriptions of where dispersant could be used seemed to conflict. Dispersant was being applied to essentially inter-tidal flats within metres of a bird rookery.

Poor internal coordination led to potential conflict at one stage when a member of the wildlife team was wandering around trying to find out who had authorised the use of dispersant and complaining that he was not consulted. This type of conflict can have serious repercussions.

5.12.5 Liaison with scientific and environmental agencies and groups

This was particularly poorly done. Most input from the exercise controllers was actively ignored. This is not in the spirit of an exercise and a sure recipe for disaster in an actual spill.

5.12.6 Provide observation and monitoring groups at the spill site

The deputy ESC flew regular flights and made some boat trips to observe the oil spill but no maps or other written information for other parts of the response seemed to be forthcoming from those excursions.

The evaluation of oiling of foreshores was completely overlooked until nearly 1100 hrs (CST). Even at that stage there was confusion between the ESC and individuals within the command group about who was able to take control of the foreshore evaluation.

Once that confusion was resolved and the responsibility delegated the foreshore evaluation occurred quickly and efficiently.

In the absence of any guidance from the ESC and response team, the staff acquired the AMOSC course notes and assessed the oiling using the foreshore forms provided. They were instructed to assume that all stranded sea grass was oiled. This allowed the team to estimate the amount of oil stranded and to determine clean-up priorities and assistance required achieving the task. This information was then presented to the OSC. Questions posed by the foreshore team about disposal and logistics for clean up prompted some much needed action in those areas albeit about seven hours too late.

5.12.7 Coordinate post spill monitoring

The need for this was not formally addressed during the exercise. There was, however, mention of a plan to request aerial photographs of mangroves to provide some before information.

5.12.8 Arranging relief ESC personnel

This is difficult in an exercise, but the ESC did seek clearance to request the assistance of ESC's from other states.

5.12.9 Wildlife welfare coordinator

The state wildlife plan nominates a wildlife welfare coordinator (WWC) and pathways for action. The ESC activated this plan and it functioned well under its delegated coordinator. However, the ESC did not keep in touch with what was happening in the wildlife area and the WWC was unsure about the need for feedback and who to approach for logistic assistance.

The ESC attempted to contact the Department of Fisheries but there appeared to be no planning put into place to keep commercial and recreational fishers advised of progress.

5.13 Heritage and Cultural Issues

Cultural issues do not appear in the South Australian oil spill contingency plan. The ESC advised verbally that there were no significant native cultural sites, though local groups or other agencies did not confirm this.

Summary

  1. Exercise Barossa provided an excellent opportunity for personnel from South Australia to exercise their draft oil spill contingency plan and to work as a response team without the real pressures of an oil spill. The true value of the exercise lies in the learning points highlighted by umpires and observers alike, and provides an excellent opportunity for improvement of some key areas of future responses.
  2. The opportunity for members of response teams from out of State and from overseas to learn from the exercise was also most worthwhile and this, combined with the lessons learnt by South Australian personnel, fully justifies the time and cost involved in planning and running such an exercise.
  3. A number of areas were identified where response procedures can be improved namely:
    • Command, control and communications.
    • Oil spill response planning and strategic development.
    • Financial control and record keeping procedures.
    • Administrative arrangements.
    • Media arrangements and briefings.
    • Occupational health and safety issues.
    • Wildlife response and prioritisation of sensitive areas as well as liaison with concerned stakeholders. 
    • There is an urgent need to address the South Australian administrative and financial control procedures that were identified as being particularly ineffective. Failure to address these aspects promptly could leave South Australia particularly exposed in a genuine major incident.
  4. Communications were identified as another area for improvement, particularly in the incident control centre and local command centres where there were very few facilities for individual response coordinators to communicate key milestones or achievements to others, too little interaction between key individuals, and no clear pathways for requests for assistance. There was also no clear delegation of responsibility, allowing vital tasks such as foreshore inspection to be forgotten for approximately seven hours.
  5. Exercise Barossa was a success and the exercise steering committee is to be congratulated for their part in providing a valuable learning opportunity for a range of oil spill personnel.

Appendices

  • Appendix 1Abbreviations and acronyms
  • Appendix 2South Australian participants and agencies
  • Appendix 3Overseas and interstate participants
  • Appendix 4Pertinent information and times
  • Appendix 5Response plandispersant application
  • Appendix 6Response planshoreline protection and clean up
  • Appendix 7Scientific and environmental assessment for Exercise Barossa
  • Appendix 8Exercise images

Last updated: 

Wednesday 29 August 2018