Coast Guard conductS 48-hour spill response exercise in Valdez, Anchorage

Coast Guard Alaska News
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Coast Guard, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, ConocoPhillips/Polar Tankers, Inc., and Alyeska Pipeline Service Company conducted a joint oil spill response exercise in Valdez and Anchorage, Monday through Wednesday.

The 2013 Prince William Sound exercise involved a multiagency response to a simulated worst case discharge from a tanker in Prince William Sound. The exercise scenario was designed to evaluate and improve agency and industry capabilities and effectiveness when responding to such an event.

“Large-scale exercises require months to coordinate and a collaborative effort amongst the maritime response community,” said Cmdr. Benjamin Hawkins, Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Valdez commanding officer and federal on-scene coordinator for Prince William Sound. “This drill was especially unique as it tested our ability to support 24-hour response operations and incorporated five different Coast Guard units, including support personnel from the Sector Field Office and Electronics Support Detachment in Valdez.”

In addition to testing response capabilities, field deployment of response equipment and coordination of response activities, the exercise also marked the first time a transition of the Unified Command’s incident command post was tested within Prince William Sound.  The scenario began in Valdez Monday evening and continued without interruption for 36 hours. Responders then shifted the incident command post to Anchorage Wednesday morning.

“Smoothly shifting response personnel to an alternate incident command post is vital to providing an aggressive response in a worst case scenario,” said Capt. Paul Mehler, Coast Guard Sector Anchorage commander and federal on-scene coordinator for Western Alaska. “An exercise of this scope gives the Coast Guard, our state partners and industry a chance to enhance and evaluate their response plans in a realistic setting.”

This week’s exercise is one of several annual multi-agency drills designed to evaluate the capabilities and effectiveness of Coast Guard, state and industry in carrying out their collective responsibilities under the Alaska Federal/State Unified Plan, the Prince William Sound Discharge Prevention and Contingency Plan and local response plans.

More than 500 Coast Guard, state and industry personnel took part in the exercise.

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