Major Baltic Sea oil and chemical spill recovery exercise is taking shape - HELCOM
The Baltic Sea response community gathered in Malmö in the beginning of the week to put together the pieces of the puzzle for the HELCOM BALEX DELTA 2018 oil and chemical spill recovery exercise. The exercise will be held in August 2018 in the Karlskrona area, hosted by Sweden.
The Main Planning Conference, held on 23–24 January 2018 and hosted by the County Administrative Board of Skåne, gathered 25 experts from seven Baltic Sea countries (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden) and the HELCOM Secretariat. Experiences from the SCOPE 2017 exercise https://scope2017.com/ were shared by the Norwegian colleagues, to the appreciation of the conference participants.
Therese Larsson, Project Manager for the BALEX DELTA 2018 EU project, welcomed the good cooperation: "I'm happy to have such knowledge from all over the Baltic Sea gathered under one roof during the Conference."
The Main Planning Conference for the 2018 BALEX DELTA exercise was attended by experts from all over the Baltic Sea. Photo: Sanna Saari.
The planning of the exercise progressed from the overall picture to planning the details of the exercise. The experts worked on finalizing the scenario for the exercise, setting the scene for the at-sea and table-top exercises, and planning the alerting exercise and the EU observer program as well as publicity issues related to the exercise.
The exercise will look different from previous years, as it includes rehearsing the response to both oil and chemical spills, as well as a table-top exercise on on-shore and oiled wildlife response. In addition, the program for the observers is more extensive than usual, giving the observers the possibility to follow the exercise closer than ever before.
Jonas Holmstrand from the Swedish Coastguard, responsible for the scenario, was pleased with the accomplishments of the planning conference: "All the team members now have a shared vision of how the exercise will be planned and carried out. We are well equipped for entering the next phase, during which the different aspects of the exercise will be planned in dedicated groups."
International assistance from some or all coastal countries may be needed in the case of a major spill in the Baltic Sea. Based on the 1974/1992 Helsinki Convention, work for such co-ordinated on pollution preparedness and response take place within the regular regional cooperation of HELCOM. A dedicated intergovernmental group was established in 1977 for this purpose, today called the HELCOM Response Working Group.
The agreed preparedness and response procedures are documented in the HELCOM Response Manual, which was first compiled in 1983 from a number of related HELCOM Recommendations and has been kept continuously updated ever since.
In order to test this Response Manual in practice, and thus ensure effective co-operation in case of an international pollution incident in the Baltic Sea, the coastal countries regularly carry out exercises. These range from table top and communication exercises to operational exercises like the HELCOM BALEX DELTA, which has been organised every year since 1989. In operational exercises equipment, ships and staff are exercised in the field using an incident scenario, partly unknown to the participants.
The BALEX DELTA 2018 EU project is a time-limited EU project supporting the organisation of the 2018 edition of the HELCOM BALEX DELTA exercise. The project will run from 1 May 2017 to 30 April 2019 with a total budget of EUR 950 000 from European Union DG ECHO, Directorate A -Emergency Management. The project consortium, led by the Swedish Coast Guard, includes as project partners the County Administrative Board of Skåne, HELCOM, MSB (Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency), Polish Maritime Search and Rescue Service, and SYKE (Finnish Environment Institute).
The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, usually referred to as HELCOM, is an intergovernmental organization of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union. HELCOM has worked since 1974 to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution and to ensure safety of navigation in the region. HELCOM is the governing body of the "Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area," more usually known as the Helsinki Convention.