By Lars Persson —
An oil spill reaching the shore can be one of the worst environmental disasters to a country. Its clean-up demands enormous resources in personnel and material, and takes a long time to handle. Oil spills affect the environment for many years, as seen with the Exxon Valdez, Deepwater Horizon and Prestige.
It is therefore crucial that the local, regional and national authorities are prepared to handle this kind of accident in the best way possible through risk assessments, planning and training.
Since the majority of ships entering and leaving the Baltic Sea are passing Skåne and Blekinge County, these areas are at high risk of an oil spill reaching their shore.
This is why the County Administrative Board (CAB) of Skåne, Sweden is taking part in the BALEX DELTA 2018 exercise, to prepare the responsible authorities in the best way possible for such an eventuality.
In the BALEX DELTA 2018 setup, we – at the Skåne county board – are responsible for the Shore exercise. This year, instead of taking place on the actual shoreline as in previous editions, it will be in the form of a table top exercise (TTP).
We will invite the municipalities in Blekinge and East Skåne County, the County Administrative Board of Skåne and Blekinge, the Coast Guard, MSB, Environmental Protection Agency, Agency for Marine and Water Management, Armed Forces and NGOs providing support for oiled wildlife.
Together, we will discuss how we can organize the resources in the best way possible and minimize the effects on the environment.
Much of the work will be to prioritize which areas to protect and which to let go. A large part of the shoreline is protected by Natura 2000 EU directives, but it will be impossible to safeguard the entire coastline.
A tool for this is the Digital Environment Atlas, a GIS system where protected areas are visible.
The TTP scenario will simulate an oil spill of such magnitude unable to be handled by Sweden alone. We therefore will have to ask for international support.
The shore exercise will only be linked to the sea exercise at the start. It will then separate from it because the shore exercise has a longer timeline stretching until next year, dealing with the long-term environmental consequences of the spill.
Our major aims are to (i) practice cooperation between the municipal and county levels, (ii) learn the routines for international support from HELCOM and the EU, and (iii) implement the HELCOM manual for work on the beach.
In addition, the Swedish Coastguard and the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency will demonstrate their resources for handling an oil spill on the shore. There will also be a demonstration of equipment for cleaning oiled wildlife.