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Taranaki Tier 2 desktop exercise, March 2016

The Scenario

MNZ received a notification at 9:30am on the 30th of March 2016 that two ships had collided to the north of Waitara and were within 12 nautical miles of the coast. One of the ships was an oil tanker with 20,000 tons of crude oil on board, the other a cargo ship with 1,500 tons of heavy fuel oil on board. Both ships were reportedly badly damages. A notification shortly after 9:30am from a helicopter pilot reported observations of an oil slick approximately 800 metres long by 300 metres wide that appeared to be sourced from the oil tanker. Both ships had managed to anchor off shore, but there was the real possibility that oil would continue to discharge from the oil tanker.


Hayley Pearson from Wildbase Oil Response along with Toby Shanley from Taranaki Regional Council attended the Taranaki oil spill response desktop exercise as the wildlife coordinators. Toby and Hayley worked within the planning team to develop the initial response action plan in WebEOC. They determined the wildlife at risk based on the existing oil slicks trajectory and established some initial response options for wildlife. Within an hour of the exercise commencing the status of the spill was upgraded from a Tier 2 to a Tier 3 response, due to the continued leak of oil from the damaged vessels. The assessment of the oil spill response team was that the spill would require the resources of the National Response Team to manage the incident. The exercise activities for wildlife from this point required notifying Massey’s Wildbase Oil Response team of the Tier 3 spill so that they could plan their mobilisation, with the aim to arrive with personnel and equipment the following day. Toby and Hayley continued to plan, budget and prioritise response options to simplify the hypothetical handover to the Wildbase Oil Response team in the evening.

It is very unusual for regional exercises to include an escalation from a Tier 2 to Tier 3 incident. Due to the uniqueness of the scenario it was an excellent opportunity to practice the integration of the regional and national response teams, to result in the smoothest possible handover of incident management. This was a very interesting and extremely useful exercise that tested not only regional integration of operations, planning and logistics, but also integration between the regional and national response levels.