U.S. Coast Guard, Clean Islands Council crew train for oil spill response

HONOLULU — U.S. Coast Guard crews teamed with oil spill response experts from the Clean Islands Council to conduct Vessel of Opportunity Skimming System (VOSS) training approximately two miles outside Honolulu Harbor, Wednesday.

VOSS is an oil recovery system used to collect large amounts of oil spilt into the ocean.

The VOSS system was introduced in the 1990s to the Hawaiian Islands. The mobile equipment is completely self-contained and capable of being used quickly and effectively aboard any available vessel.

“The VOSS is very versatile and could fit on a vessel ranging from the size of 55 to 300 feet,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Kurt Stricklen, an instructor with the Coast Guard’s Pacific Strike Team, a tactical unit that deploys to oil spill emergencies. “It’s designed to be quickly transported to an area where an oil spill has occurred and convert any suitable ship that is available into an efficient single oil recovery platform.”

Pollution response crews from Coast Guard Sector Honolulu’s Incident Management Division loaded the system onto the motor vessel Clean Islands, a Clean Islands Council vessel dedicated to assist in oil recovery operations, Wednesday morning. The Clean Islands is a vital oil spill response corporation that can deploy two VOSS systems if needed.

Coast Guard crews worked alongside the Cleans Islands crew to gain familiarization with the system and talk about when and how to use it with Pacific Strike Team instructors.

“Training ensures that we stay familiar with the equipment and also reduces the response time in the event we would need to use this equipment,” said Lt. Stacey Crecy, the 14th Coast Guard District’s response assistance team leader.

A spool of inflatable oil containment boom is set in the middle of the deck, and when needed to deploy, fed out a large swing arm. The boom makes a “V” shape and collects oil on the surface of the water. When the oil is collected in the boom, a skimming system located at the back of the boom draws the oily water into a tank where it is contained and separated. Crews were able to set the system up in approximately 30 minutes.

“The VOSS system is important if a major oil spill occurs,” said Crecy. “We could deploy this equipment offshore and collect the oil before it impacts beaches or sensitive areas. In the 14th District, we have many small islands in spread-out locations that don’t have much oil response equipment. This equipment is designed to be transported in a (Coast Guard) C-130.”

The Coast Guard’s VOSS equipment is strategically pre-positioned at several locations across the country and three locations in Coast Guard District 14, including Honolulu, Guam and American Samoa.

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