Pollution and salvage experts descend on Ulladulla

READY: NSW Maritime executive director Angus Mitchell readys a boat in Ulladulla for training. Photo: Jessica McInerney.
READY: NSW Maritime executive director Angus Mitchell readys a boat in Ulladulla for training. Photo: Jessica McInerney.

The state’s leading marine pollution response specialists descended on Ulladulla on Wednesday for a training exercise.

Roads and Maritime Services along with local police attended the mock-incident NSW Maritime executive director Angus Mitchell said. 

“We’re at the Marine Rescue centre and what we are doing is going through one of our contingency plans for a marine pollution incident,” he said. 

“We have the responsibility across the state’s coastline for responding to marine pollution incidents. Whether they be shore-based and they get into the water or from a vessel, we need to have plans in place and regularly exercise them.”

Mr Mitchell said the event was one or four held every year and comprised of 40 staff from the South Coast region and southern Sydney. 

He said the event allowed the group to be “put through their paces” in response to a variety of incidents including sinking vessels or vessels that run aground. 

“Every week there is a pollution incident of some description, fortunately most of them are very minor and quickly dealt with, but we plan for every kind of contingency,” he said. 

“We had an incident [in Ulladulla] just yesterday where a vessel pumped out its bilges and within that bilge there was some leftover fuel. That’s the type of incidents we respond to daily, ourselves and Fire and Rescue.

“We also gear ourselves up for major oil pollution like a tanker. We look at every end of the spectrum from the very minor, daily, occurrences we see in the waterways, right up to the really big risk ones we have right along the NSW coastline.”

Member for South Coast Shelley Hancock said regular testing of potential scenarios is key to maintaining and improving skills in preparation for any significant pollution event in NSW waters.

“The scenarios involved the deployment of boom and the use of specialist clean up tools such as flexidams, skimmers and pumps to remove and store pollutants,” she said. 

“It exercised the NSW State Waters and the South Coast Marine Oil and Chemical Spill Contingency Plans and be comprised of four main components: establishing an incident control centre, marine assessment, equipment deployment and shoreline assessment.

“In the unfortunate event of a collision the exercise ensured all agencies are aware of the correct protocols and procedures, and can respond quickly and appropriately.” 

To report pollution from a vessel on the water contact Roads and Maritime on 13 12 56 with as many details as possible including the vessel name, registration number, time and place of the incident and the kind of pollution.

For pollution which appears to be coming from a marina or land-based facilities, contact should be made with the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) or council.