Speech by Therese Mattsson, Director General of the Swedish Coast Guard on the occasion of the opening ceremony of the BALEX DELTA 2018 exercise, Karlskrona, Sweden, 27 August 2018
Dear experts, friends and colleagues,
It is with a feeling of strength, belonging and tremendous faith in our combined competence that I stand before you this evening. This, after passing large parts of the Baltic Sea’s international environmental rescue fleet in the harbour on the way here.
The Baltic Sea is our common denominator – our sea – a sea that provides us with food, transport, recreation and, not least of all, sharing between people and countries.
We humans have high demands, so we make our mark on our natural surroundings. This is true for all of our seas.
This summer, two larger ships ran aground off the Swedish Coast, one of which spilled a significant amount of oil. In retrospect, these incidents were not as large, and we could actually manage them ourselves.
Sadly, it is not a question of if, but rather when a major accident will occur. An accident that may have enormous consequences for nature and wildlife, both in the sea and on our beaches, for a long time to come.
Those of us here to conduct an exercise this week will not be able to prevent an accident from happening. But when it does happen, we must be ready to handle it. We must be prepared and know what we need to do.
The most successful crisis management takes place before a crisis occurs. Conducting an exercise is just that kind of crisis management. I cannot emphasize strongly enough the importance of exercises.
I do not doubt for a second that each and every one of us can do our jobs, knows our technology and can handle our equipment.
But to be able to deal with major accidents and respond to major spills, the keys to success are a high level of preparedness, cooperation and coordination. Only together can we make a difference to the extent that both the world at large and nature expect of us.
Balex Delta 2018 is one of the biggest sea-based environmental rescue exercises in the world. Over a period of 36 hours, the fleet that is now in port will be responding to a major oil spill. There will also be dangerous, toxic chemicals that pose a threat to life and health.
This year, the exercise will include the response both at sea and on shore. It is incredibly pleasing to be able to bring together these two elements in one single exercise. It is extremely important that actors on shore and at sea cooperate.
The exercise will result in, among other things, knowledge of how we can further improve the regulations set out in the HELCOM Agreement.
HELCOM provides the Baltic countries with the conditions to keep the contingency and response chain intact in an effective way. The defined framework will always need to be developed, this year’s exercise is not the end of the road.
This year’s Balex Delta encompasses more than previous exercises. The major features are oil and chemicals, both at sea and on shore. This would not have been possible without the EU project status.
Thanks to the European Commission, we have a budget of 950,000 euros to enable the project, which lasts two years, to be carried out.
There are many parties making this year’s Balex Delta possible – without forgetting anyone, I would like in particular to mention HELCOM, the County Administrative Board of Skåne, the Swedish Contingencies Agency MSB, the Polish Maritime Search and Rescue Service and the Finnish Environment Institute SYKE, as well as my co-workers at the Swedish Coast Guard. My sincere thanks to all of you!
The days ahead contain many activities, meetings and opportunities to enhance our cooperation.
We all agree that the Baltic Sea is fragile and is facing major challenges.
Jointly, we can do something about it.
Together we can enhance our shared ability so that we are prepared when an accident occurs.
I hope that the 29th Balex Delta will be educational and show how we can develop together in the future so that we can be even better at our important task.
I end by thanking all participants and all staff that made this exercise possible.
Good luck to all of you taking part in Balex Delta!