In 2019, Sea Alarm was invited by Shell Shipping & Maritime to participate in a large-scale oil spill response exercise – Exercise Silver Mermaid – in Aarhus, Denmark.
The spill scenario simulated an oil spill in the Baltic Sea east of Aarhus involving a Shell operated vessel. For Shell and the Danish authorities an exercise such as this is a great opportunity for emergency response personnel to practice their skills, and optimize their scope for cooperation.
Sea Alarm assisted with the preparation of the scenario on wildlife impacts, and assisted the wildlife dedicated response personnel on the work floor. Prior to the exercise, Sea Alarm provided Shell’s exercise designers with a wildlife impact scenario for this part of the Baltic Sea, which is known to accommodate various sea and coastal birds and marine mammals. Data for that impact analysis were kindly provided to Sea Alarm by Danish scientists.
In Denmark, the default response to oiled wildlife is to euthanise affected animals, utilising skilled hunters, under the assumption that animals have no chance for survival. Such an approach limits the options for a polluter, the Responsible Party, to demonstrate its concern for the environmental consequences, especially to animals, and its objective to minimize the damage caused. A part of Sea Alarm’s role in this exercise was to moderate discussions between the Danish authorities and Shell to agree an approach for this particular scenario, and to see if the Danish authorities’ default response could be extended with an attempt to also rescue and rehabilitate some of the impacted animals. The exercise allowed the parties to discuss these sensitive options outside of the pressures of a real incident. It appeared from these discussions that the authorities would grant Shell the option to initiate a wildlife response and rehabilitation effort. The next challenge would be to try organise such a response in a country that is not prepared itself for such an approach, and bring resources from abroad within the time windows available.
Representatives of the Danish Royal Navy, Environmental Protection Agency, and Nature and Forest Agency attended the exercise, meeting and interacting with the Wildlife Branch team, which consisted of personnel from Shell, assisted by experts from Oil Spill Response Limited (OSRL). Sea Alarm played its role as an advisor, knowing both Shell and the situation in Denmark quite well.
Sea Alarm participants included Hugo Nijkamp, Paul Kelway and Dr. Ian Robinson, consultant to Sea Alarm. The two-day exercise was followed by a ‘hot wash’ debrief, covering what went well and what areas of response need further improvement.
For the Danish authorities it was an opportunity to consider the needs of a Responsible Party who wants to demonstrate its concerns with the environmental damage caused. For Shell, the wildlife aspect of the exercise offered a chance to further develop their global and local oiled wildlife response, exploring the in-country pre-spill planning required to enable an effective wildlife rehabilitation effort in the event of a real incident in the future.