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Everything But The Oil

It all began at 6:30 a.m. Friday morning — when, following an engine room fire that caused a loss of propulsion, a 584-ft. (178- m) tanker ran aground in the area of Robins Reef Light. She was inbound in the Kill Van Kull waterway, heading for IMTT Bayonne Terminal laden with a cargo of 51,043 cubic meters of #6 oil. The vessel had suffered ruptures in Tank Nos. 1 and 2, and was leaking its cargo into the waters surrounding the Port of New York/New Jersey.

The master of the vessel called and informed the owner's retained Qualified Individual (QI), Lewis J. Corcoran, one of the spill managers at ECM/Hudson Maritime Services, LLC. The QI immediately asked the master to fax him an incident report with all pertinent information, so the QI could inform the regulatory authorities on the particulars and mobilize the emery gency cleanup response while master did everything possible to contain the spill on the scenpr Just about every maritime operation in the area was shut dowjr— including the Staten Island ferry, which meant thousands of commuters were cut off from their places of employment in the morning, and then from their homes that evening.

National Response Corp. (NRC) the owner's Oil Spill Response Organization (OSRO), and Don Jon Marine, the owner's salvage /firefighting contractors, were on the scene in a few short hours. NRC alone mobilized 8,000 feet of 24-inch boom, portable barges and, a weir disc skimmer. By 7:20 a^iff; a safety zone was estahM§ned throughout the Upper JiSy from the Verrazano Narpefws Bridge North to the Broo^l^1 and George Washington bridges and along the Kill Van Ktffl to the Bayonne Bridge, j r Nevejgmeless, the damage to the tank^was such that by 7:45 a.m., t h ^ Master reported he'd lost Approximately 2,600 cu. m. of cargo from the 1 and 2 center r.arp-o tanks, and that the outflow of oil continued. Results of an 8:00 a.m. overflight indicated oil was moving into the Kill Van Kull. New York and New Jersey shorelines were oiled from Bergen Point/Con Hook to the Bayonne Bridge. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) closed Newark Bay to all vessel traffic. ^ Why haven't you raatfabout any of this? Becaus£>twas all part of a detailed sjjrfulation carried out by ECM/Hudson, with offices in Wiltqjfrf'Conn., Camden, N.J. and Hptfston, Texas. A relatively young TOmpany but backed by years of maritime experience, ECM/Hudson was formed when Environmental Crisis Management (ECM) merged with Hudson Maritime Services earlier this year. Spill simulations such as the one which began with the previous scenario are provided for by the USCG's PREP Guideline, but there can be a dramatic difference between simply meeting regulatory rrqiiir"m"r)lnH ntiil n lii I I J {hi |i II i In — and ECM/ Hudson has been emphasizing the latter.

Cynthia Hudson, vice president of ECM/Hudson and founder of Hudson Maritime Services, puts it this way: "In spite of the latitude that the PREP guidelines have giygja-^he says, "we've been able •rorind and define a pathway that makes it a really valuable experience for those owners that are taking the intention of the guideline seriously, and making a very good and a practical effort to handle the exercises responsibly." ECM/Hudson's approach tests the organizational elements a shipowning company has in place, and says it accomplishes this at relatively modest expense — in no small part because no actual equipment is mobilized, other than telephones and fax machines.

"There are those who see these exercises as things they've got to do ... They simply meet the regulations, and that's it," says Ms.

Hudson. "We think you can do these kinds of exercises really for ~Tm~T lititlrmnrir" It doesn't have to be some""&*4ravagant event with thousands a n d n ^ j s a n d s of dollars flying around. Ithwjk you can make a practical exerci&s^from which you will really lear?N^- know even better how to function when you have a real problem." The owner (plan holder), his spill management team and his QI are put through these hurdles and then given a review of their performance. In addition to a number of technical issues to work through, an almost unreag number of obstacles is throwrj^at-The owning company in the compre^atftRime drill — at least, more than wouJjHikely be encountered in any one spill event w t h e idea being to prepare its staff for just about any possibility that could conceivably confront them. If one set of variables was covered by the simulation and then a different set encountered in a actual event, the preparation would obviously lose some value — so ECM/Hudson pulls out the stops.

Angry lawyers and crusading journalists (actually ECM/Hudson staffers) call the operator, asking for everything from compensation for lost operations time to a statement as to whether the event could accurately be described as "the Valdez of New York Harbor." Employees of the owning company must navigate through these obstacles in a way that contains flip qpill f° the Environment and projects a company wiltT the proper safeguards in place, but also respects the company's bottom line. (One of the calls made to the owner during the time MR I EN spent at ECM/Hudson's Camden facility was a sorbent salesman claiming to have reached an agreement with the owner's QI for his wares and looking to capitalize on the owner's temptation toward overkill).

Attention to detail is stringent. The abovementioned mobilizations of NRC and Don Jon Marine were real parts of the simulation, incorporated into the scenario when the Captain,who was played by an actual owner's master, called the QI asking for help. The QI made calls to not only the regulatory authorities such as the USCG, but also to the spill contractors, prefacing each call with the phrase "Spillex '95" shorthand for "Spill Exercise '95" — to let the various organizations know the call was part of „ a simulation.

jat amount of detail is key to making the exerctfcaas valuable as possible for the owner. The theotv is that if you can achieve as closely as possibl^the tension level and detail-juggling of a real spill, the preparation will have more value in ail Hudson be! benefits far i the table.

merge and almost oper actual spill event. Indeed, Ms. eves ECM/Hudson's services bring nd above regulatory compliance to )ne of the hidden benefits is that our two orgs nizations actually begin to think, inction as one, insofar as we are ting as an externally located but The EC Vl/Hudson crew at work. internal division — one that happens to concentrate on emergency and oil spill response and those relatad issues," she says. "The vessel owner deals wjfth us every day on regulatory and planning issues, so that in an emergency, he feels that ha knows us — knows how to operate with us, And knows who he's relying on when he has a problem.

"It's always, nice to know the people you're relying on in an emergency situation instead of getting to kpow them during the emergency," she says.

The cliedt in this exercise was Cogema S.A.M., Mofite Carlo, Monaco — which, among other interests, operates up to 15 tankers. "We think that/this (owner) is a real shining star," says Ms. Hudson. "They really bend over backwards to fry and make sure everything they're doing is raght and correct. I think they're taking it seriously, which they're proud of."

 
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