Oil spill exercise in Finland attended by international experts

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The crew of the oil spill recovery vessel Letto geared up for the exercise on Tuesday. (Kyösti Vaara/Yle)
The crew of the oil spill recovery vessel Letto geared up for the exercise on Tuesday. (Kyösti Vaara/Yle)
Experts from as far afield as China and Canada will observe Wednesday’s oil recovery exercise on the Gulf of Bothnia.

A major oil recovery training operation is to take place in the icy waters off Kemi, northern Finland, on Wednesday. Ahead of the exercise, a wide-ranging international conference was held on Tuesday at Kemi Cultural Centre, with more sessions to be held on Thursday. The seminar features speakers from Canada, the UK, the US, Russia and China, as well as Norway, Estonia and Finland.

Some 150 representatives of Baltic Sea states and Arctic Council members will observe Wednesday’s exercise from the icebreaker Sampo. The operation will include aerial surveillance, satellite monitoring and mechanical recovery tasks.

Risk is real

The practice event will be based on a fictional scenario where 150-200 tons of heavy fuel oil spill due to a collision between two vessels. Such a collision is unlikely in the northern Baltic, says Jorma Rytkönen, a senior official at the Finnish Environment Institute. However there is a real risk of other kinds of oil spills.

“Our number-one accident scenario is a ship running aground, causing hundreds of tons of its own fuel to leak out,” he says.

The Environment Institute says it has prepared for a spill of up to 5,000 tons of oil in the Bay of Bothnia between Finland and Sweden. On the Gulf of Finland, it has contingency plans for an accident involving up to 30,000 tons of oil.

“In case of a major accident, we will of course request assistance from neighbouring countries,” Rytkönen says.

The shallow, brackish Baltic Sea has been designated as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area by the UN’s International Maritime Organization.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Study envisions fallout from oil spill in Arctic Canada, Alaska Dispatch

Finland: WWF Finland concerned about oil leak in Baltic Sea, Yle News

Greenland:  Arctic seas – little ability to cope with an oil spill, Radio Canada International

Norway:  IMO completes Polar Code environmental rules, Barents Observer

Russia: Norway and Russia join forces in Arctic response drill, Barents Observer

Sweden:  Massive oil spill outside Gothenburg, Sweden, Radio Sweden

United States:  ARCTREX tests Arctic oil spill tracking techniques, Alaska Public Radio Network

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