Seychelles Conducts Oil Spill ExerciseBy Michelle Howard
A major exercise in implementing the national contingency plan for anti-pollution, search and rescue, and fire fighting was held in the waters off Mahé on 4 June.
This complex exercise was carried out by a range of different agencies including the Seychelles Coast Guard, Air Force, Fire Fighting Services and Port Authority.
The EUNAVFOR Atalanta Flagship Brandenburg also took part in the exercise, EUCAP Nestor experts provided support for the planning, preparations as well as its execution.
The Seychelles Maritime Safety Authority and the Ministry of Environment and Energy were also involved.
The scenario started in the morning of 4th June with a mock distress call to the Coast Guard from a Seychelles flagged vessel that had collided with a ferry just off Glacis. The collision caused an oil leak and a fire on board the vessel. A number of crewmembers abandoned the ship as it started to sink.
The Coast Guard immediately sent two speedboats and Patrol Vessel Topaz to the sinking ship, and asked the Seychelles Air Force to send an aircraft to the area. The Seychelles Port Authority sent a tug with floating booms to contain the oil spill, and the Fire and Rescue Service intervened to put out the fire.
The EUNAVFOR Flagship Brandenburg, which happened to be in the area, also headed towards the collision.
Together, the Seychelles Coast Guard vessels, Air Force and the Brandenburg found and rescued the crewmembers and worked to prevent the ship from sinking.
“Being able to fight the oil spills is extremely important for the Seychelles,” said the Commanding Officer of the Seychelles Coast Guard, Lt Col Dine. “Our tourism industry, an integral part of our Blue Economy, must be protected from pollution.”
“Today’s exercise went very well,” said Fredrik Wesslau, acting Head of the EUCAP Nestor (Seychelles) Country Office. “This was a complex and difficult exercise involving numerous agencies. In such scenarios, it is essential that everything is well coordinated and everyone knows exactly what they should be doing.”
“Once again, the Seychelles has demonstrated its solid capacity to deal with threats to maritime safety,” said Wesslau. “EUCAP Nestor will take the lessons learnt from the exercise to find ways to further improve this capacity.”
The lessons learnt will also be incorporated into the on-going Basic Training Program for the Coast Guard. The environmental protection module of the six-month program will start later in June for the benefit of trainees from the Coast Guard, Marine Police Investigation Unit, and Air Force.
EUCAP Nestor is a civilian EU mission, under the Common Security and Defence Policy, which assists countries in the Horn of Africa and the Western Indian Ocean in strengthening their capacity to ensure maritime security and in particular to fight piracy.