NZ Expert Experience Gained Via Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

( First-hand experience gained by New Zealand experts working with the 33,000-strong oil spill response team in the Gulf of Mexico will prove invaluable for this country’s own preparedness, Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) says.

Oil Spill Equipment Technician Scott Read and Response Planning Officer Dayne Maxwell, from MNZ’s Auckland-based Marine Pollution Response Service (MPRS), returned from a three-week deployment to the United States yesterday.

The men have been in the Gulf of Mexico since 26 May. They were seconded to Oil Spill Response Ltd, a British company contracted by BP to assist with the oil spill response.

Mr Maxwell was posted to Mobile, Alabama, to work within the Shoreline Clean-up Assessment Team (SCAT) unit. SCAT is one of his key areas of responsibility in New Zealand.

SCAT involves the systematic assessment of shorelines and planning of how best to protect and clean them.

Mr Maxwell was based in a command centre, helping coordinate the deployment of teams into the field. It had been invaluable working alongside people who had “written the manual” on SCAT, he said.

Mr Read said his time in the US had been divided between aerial dispersant operations and a liaison role supporting the SCAT unit.

Mr Read said it had been fascinating observing such a large-scale response, and the challenge now was how to incorporate the lessons learnt into the New Zealand system.

MPRS Operations Manager Neil Rowarth said although MPRS was regularly asked to assist with international oil spill responses, this spill was the largest New Zealand staff had been involved with.

“The staff we have deployed to the Deepwater Horizon spill will benefit enormously from their first-hand experience of being involved with such a large-scale spill,” Mr Rowarth said.

“The whole country will benefit as the lessons and insights they gain from the experience are filtered back into the wider New Zealand response system.

“It is also important to recognise the contribution that Scott and Dayne have made and the expertise they bring to any spill response. The ongoing requests we receive for our staff to assist in international spill responses reflect the experience and skill we hold here, and the standing our experts have with their colleagues around the world.”

Three other MNZ staff members have travelled to the US to replace Mr Read and Mr Maxwell, and it is likely other New Zealand experts will be deployed over the next few months.

Note: MPRS is New Zealand’s lead national oil spill response agency. Working with regional councils, the oil industry, and specialists from around New Zealand, MPRS ensures all regions have current oil spill response plans in place. The Te Atatu-based team provides training programmes for the country’s 400 oil spill responders and also manages the national collection of oil spill response equipment.

Media Release 22 June 2010 from Maritime NZ.