The list of potential threats to the UK coastline includes inadvertent oil and chemical discharges as well as plastic and natural products and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) regularly trains across the UK against any of those happening.
The counter-pollution scenario led by the MCA – which is the biggest exercise of 2023 – is under way this week just off Aberdeen.
MCA Chief Executive Virginia McVea will be on the water assessing the operation in person. She said: “As well as honing our capability and spotting any gaps, the exercise is a clear demonstration of how well prepared we are as a country to protect our offshore habitats, coastline, economy and communities from pollution at sea.”
The MCA’s Head of Counter-Pollution and Salvage, Stan Woznicki, said: “Major training exercises such as these are key components of a wider training programme as they familiarise the teams with the considerable size and complexity of the response equipment, as well as the number and diversity of the personnel needed to deliver an effective response.
“Where delivery of response must be delivered quickly, this experience is crucial.”
Also attending are representatives from Port of Aberdeen, the Marine Directorate of the Scottish Government, and other oil spill response organisations from across the UK.
The MCA’s Counter-Pollution and Salvage team's remit is UK-wide and can range from large-scale emergencies requiring the mobilisation of extensive national resources to tailored response support to smaller incidents where the national specialist capability is required.
The UK’s protection is provided from three equipment bases situated in Barnsley, Dundee and Bristol, which ensures responses to a forward deployment point on the UK mainland within 15 hours.
The MCA exercise is being held just off the Port of Aberdeen and will run from 10-12 October involving hundreds of metres of equipment, a small flotilla of vessels and about 50 people from various organisations.
The event is weather-dependent but planned rehearsals include a theoretical spill of 750 tonnes of oil close to the coast. Among the kit being deployed are booms to limit the spread of pollutant, equipment known as skimmers to collect it, and a huge storage bag to hold it ready for disposal.
The activity also includes a flyover of two planes practising surveillance and mock dispersant sprays. No real oil or real dispersant spray will be used in this exercise.