Sept. 10 drill to test oil spill readiness in San Juan Islands

The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) will test how well BP Shipping can mount a rapid, aggressive and well-coordinated response on Sept. 10 to a simulated collision and oil spill near the entrance to Rosario Strait.

No oil will be discharged during the large-scale equipment deployment exercise. Ecology representatives will observe and evaluate the planned drill near Lopez Island.

BP Shipping is sponsoring the multi-party, oil-spill-readiness drill with its contractor, Marine Spill Response Corp. MSRC is a private, non-profit spill response company supported by oil terminal and shipping company customers. There also will be four oil tanker companies involved in the exercise:

Alaska Tanker Co.

Harley Marine Services

ConocoPhillips Polar Tankers

SeaRiver Maritime

MSRC will deploy oil-skimming vessels, response boats and oil barrier booms during the exercise. Local commercial fishing vessels and crews also will be safely integrated into the response as appropriate.

The drill will test several geographic-based response plans designed to help reduce environmental damage if a spill were to occur. This includes setting out boom to help prevent oil from entering Watmough Bay.

Since state law requires companies have the capability to extend the hours of oil cleanup operations in darkness and poor visibility, MSRC will also deploy special tracking devices in the vicinity of the spill to help determine how and where the oil is located when visibility is low.

Washington law mandates that all oil tankers and oil barges, large commercial vessels, oil refineries, liquid fuel pipelines, and oil-handling facilities that transfer high volumes of oil over water have spill readiness – or contingency – plans to operate in state waters. Oil spill contingency plans help ensure companies are prepared to respond if they have a spill.

Since BP Shipping, Alaska Tanker Co., Harley Marine, ConocoPhillips Polar Tankers, and SeaRiver Maritime all regularly transport and transfer large volumes of oil over state waters, Ecology requires the companies to have spill contingency plans for their operations. By participating in the drill, the five companies will fulfill part of Washington’s oil-spill preparedness requirements.

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