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Wellington NRT Exercise, March 2016

The scenario

A two day desktop exercise was conducted over the 16th and 17th of March 2016 in Wellington City as part of the National Response Team (NRT) ongoing preparation for the national exercise Whakautu 2 - 2016. The exercise focused on a marine oil spill in the Wellington region resulting from a damaged cargo ship, with oil washing up in two bays of the Wellington South coast and the potential of it reaching Matiu/Somes and the Petone shoreline.  The scenario went: at 1950 hrs 15 March the 105 m cargo ship, ‘Ping go’ was entering Wellington harbour. The pilot boat crew reported a strong smell of fuel oil and that his vessel was oiled at the waterline. The vessel appeared to be leaking fuel oil and the regions’ oil spill team were called out to boom the ship. At 2215 a Cook strait ferry reported seeing a large oil slick picked up in his searchlight, South West of the harbour entrance. Reports from recreational sources throughout the evening suggested a significant spill must have occurred somewhere outside Wellington harbour. A Tier 3 response was declared at 0100 and the NRT mobilised to Wellington. The exercise was carried out from within an Emergency Command Centre (ECC) based in Wellington City with observers from Maritime NZ and other government departments.


During the exercise Louise Chilvers took the role of Wildlife coordinator within the NRT Operations team and Phil Battley undertook the role of Wildlife Planning Officer within the Planning team. Together, Louise and Phil also took on the role of Wildlife Advisors, under the environmental assessment team in Planning. The first morning of the exercise was spent assessing the situation, adding to the action plan and trying to develop priorities for the wildlife most likely to be affected by such a spill, both with oil already on the shore and potentially reaching more areas. Identification of what could be at risk in the next 24 hours, what were the best wildlife response options, and how to carry them out were also all considered.  All of these response options were discussed and entered into WebEOC, Maritime NZ’s response online planning and operations tool. The two day exercise worked extensively with WebEOC and focused on improving the collaborative efforts of Operations, Planning and Logistics teams in such a spill event.

The exercise was a great opportunity to work together with New Zealand NRT, getting a greater understanding of the use and capacity of WebEOC and how the ECC would operate during a Tier 3 exercise.