2018 Green Apple Spill Exercise
Committed to providing tugboat and towing vessel operators with a platform to meet regularity requirements and collaborate with local resources, the annual event also reminds us that Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance.
On September 28 2018, American Marine Associates, LLC (AMA) coordinated and hosted the 3rd annual Green Apple Spill Response Exercise in Bayonne, NJ. The Green Apple Spill Response exercise was established specifically for the tugboat and towing vessel industry operating in New York Harbor. In its third year, the focus of the Exercise remains committed to providing tugboat & towing vessel operators, such as this year’s participants, Dann Marine Towing, Donjon Marine, and the Vane Brothers with a platform to meet regularity requirements and collaborate with local resources and more importantly, put names with faces, of those who would respond to an oil spill catastrophe in New York Harbor.
As in previous years, participants from multiple sectors were in attendance representing a vast array of response services. Importantly, this year’s Exercise included over 25 representatives from United States Coast Guard Sector New York, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2, Oil Spill Removal Organizations’ (OSRO), National Response Corporation (NRC) and Marine Spill Response Corporation (MSRC). “NRC enjoys participating in the Green Apple Spill Response exercise, not only because it’s a great chance to meet some of our clients, regulatory agents of Coast Guard, EPA and Qualified Individuals, but it is also a requirement of the National Preparedness for Response Exercise Program, or PREP” said John Hielscher, Northeast Regional Manager, of NRC.
The Green Apple Spill Response Exercise was devised to meet the 2016 National Preparedness for Response Exercise Program (PREP) guidelines and NT-VRP (Non-Tank Vessel Response Plan – 33 CFR Part 155.5010) requirements of the Operators. The exercise scenarios are developed for Operators to maintain compliance with OPA 90-mandated federal oil pollution response exercise requirements. (Note: The new 2016.1 PREP Guidelines are effective of October 01, 2018.)
Additionally, unique to the Green Apple Spill Response Exercise, is the participation from other support services involved in an environmental pollution response and recovery incident such as the American Club representing the Protection & Indemnity (P&I) insurance side of the claim process, as well as demonstrations and subject matter expertise from spill clean-up and recovery absorbents innovators, New Pig Corporation.
According to American Marine Associates, the goal of the Exercise is not only to test response plans, but also to educate stakeholders with new technology, processes and advances in prevention and recovery techniques that may benefit them during and after a pollution emergency. “Many entities do not realize the role played by P&I Clubs in the event of Oil Pollution” said Captain Sanjive Nanda, VP & Senior Claims Executive, the American Club. The Green Apple Spill Response Exercise accomplishes that goal.
Perhaps one of the best aspects of the Green Apple Spill Response Exercise is that scenarios are developed from current events affecting the industry. This year’s scenario was drafted using and modifying some of the root-causes discovered in the grounding and sinking of the Nathan E. Stewart oil spill near Bella Bella, British Columbia from October 13, 2016.
The articulated tug-barge composed of the tug Nathan E. Stewart and a tank barge went aground on Edge Reef near Athlone Island, at the entrance to the Seaforth Channel, just west of Bella Bella, BC. The Nathan E. Stewart’s hull was breached and approximately 29,000 gallons of diesel fuel were released into the surrounding waterways and natural environment. Ultimately, the tug sank and separated from the barge. According to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s investigation report, contributing factors included the second mate was standing watch alone on the bridge and had fallen asleep, thus missing a planned course change leading up to the grounding. Additionally, fatigue was considered a key factor as provoked by his previous days’ workload and limited rest.
This year’s Exercise built upon the Nathan E. Stewart spill and added an existing trend facing the maritime industry, operator distraction. The Exercise utilized a scenario where the Captain of the tug had just left the barge at the Gravesend Bay Anchorage and was using his cell phone while on watch in the midst of a spirited conversation with his home. The Captain became distracted and veered off course entering the Narrows into New York Harbor, ultimately hitting the northbound Verrazano-Narrows bridge. The tug’s hull was breached and released 91,000 gallons of Diesel fuel into New York Harbor, impeding commerce and impacting natural resources.
The scenario provided a worst-case discharge for not only the participating operators, but also for many of other Operators transiting through New York Harbor. This type of scenario drives home greater collaboration of response and recovery efforts, while providing operators with a greater scope of resources available and needed in the Harbor.
The Exercise also generated dialogue surrounding new technologies and their effectiveness. Such topics included the use of drones to monitor spreading of oil radius through video and temperature sensing technology, the reduction of waste oils through microbial action, and advances in training through oil spill marine causality simulator programs such as the Kongsberg platform recently introduced.
When Operators and service professionals gather as they do at the Green Apple Spill Response Exercise and other similar events, they not only test their emergency protocols for meeting regulatory requirements, they also follow the “5 Ps of Success” mantra: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance.
The Green Apple Spill Response Exercise takes place annually in the tri-state New York/New Jersey/Connecticut area and is tentatively next scheduled for September 27, 2019.
This article first appeared in the December print edition of MarineNews magazine.