SONS 2010 – Spill of National Significance Exercise in Portland, Maine; Day Two

Monkey Fist
Total Views: 5
March 25, 2010

imageArticle by Maya Cohen – Photos by Sandra Konigmacher
Day One »

1 USCGC Shackle approaching the South Portland, Maine CG pier0820: 35 degrees F with sideways blowing snow – USCGC SHACKLE approaching South Portland CG Station pier. The Shackle is a 65ft Small Harbor Tug, tasked with light icebreaking, maritime security, search and rescue and ship assist work out of Station South Portland, Casco Bay, Maine (full size)

3 bridge of the USCGC Shackle - Portland, Maine Bridge of the SHACKLE (full size) See also: rear facing nav station »

4 State Dept contingent of Korean News Crews get some B rollUS State Dept contingent of Korean news teams get some B roll aboard the Shackle.  One of the cameramen was sporting a Yankees cap, triggering a wave of murmurs amongst the ship’s captain and crew. full size abovefull size below.

5 Korean News network SBS does a standup in front of the Maine Responder

imageSr. Chief Joseph Butkovic at the helm of the Shackle (full size)

imageDay Two; March 24, 2010

The United States Coast Guard sponsors a Spill of National Significance Full Scale Exercise every 3 years that includes collaboration with additional federal, state, local and private organizations. This year, the exercise was hosted in Casco Bay, Maine.

The scenario for SONS 2010 assumes sea conditions of 20 foot seas, 40 knot winds, with deteriorating conditions, and that’s pretty much exactly what what we had. Fifteen miles from shore, the collision of an oil tanker and a car carrier results in the carrier embedding into the side of the tanker, spilling 69,000 barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Maine.

Early in the morning, crew readied one of the inflatable barges (seen to the vessel’s port side) that accompanies the VOSS (Vessel of Opportunity Skimming System) and prepared it for towing. Each VOSS is contained in transport “pods” (big metal box) that can be loaded on to a truck or C-130 transport plane and delivered to a particular spill site. Each VOSS is equipped with two 50 foot inflatable barges that are capable of receiving 619 barrels of recovered oil or diesel.

imageUSCGC Marcus Hanna deploys the containment boom (full size)

image The 175 foot Buoy Tender Marcus Hanna was used as the working platform for the VOSS. A recovery barge was tied off the port side of the Marcus Hanna, while crew secured the containment booms on the starboard side. Once the booms are in place, the pumping device is placed into the contained area and pumping can begin. The oil is separated from the water and pumped into the barge. No system is perfect and some water is gained in the recovery, however, the barge is equipped with a “decanting valve” that allows the heavier water to be siphoned off.

Larger buoy tenders, (225’s) are designed with VOSS-like systems, called SORS, or Spilled Oil Recover Systems. These systems work like the VOSS, but are designed to be stored equipment on the tender in a forward compartment.

Also participating in the exercise was the Maine Responder, a spill recovery vessel owned by Marine Spill Response Corporation. This vessel is only involved with spill recovery and can pump recovered oil into tanks that are located on board. There are several vessels of this type located in various ports, always at the ready for quick spill response.

image(see full size)

Day Two Flickr photo album from the event »Day One Gallery »

Other Local Media Reports:

imageWhile Maya and I were warm and cozy aboard the USCGC Shackle, local broadcast media suffered the elements on the open deck of the Maine Marine Patrol rescue boat PV Challenge II. (see full size)

PORTSMOUTH The birds and the marshes would feel it the worst, if ever a massive oil spill were to occur along the coast.

imageBut that’s not all. Seabrook Station would shut down; fishermen would be banned from fishing and at least some already out would need to be rescued; and power plants on the Piscataqua could be affected, causing further power disruption.

That was the message brought home Wednesday, after dozens of local, state, federal and private industry employees took part in a simulated oil spill exercise of national scope at a very busy "command room" in the Portsmouth office of the N.H. Department of Environmental Services.

Because the oil would emulsify in the ocean, it would triple in volume to 9 million gallons, said Michael Wimsatt, director of the Waste Management Divsion at N.H. DES. That’s 9 million gallons making its way south from Portland and into the N.H. Seacoast.

imageSouth Portland and Cape Elizabeth residents will awaken to lots of unusual activity in Casco Bay on March 24 and 25. Starting at 7 a.m. on both days, the U.S. Coast Guard base in South Portland will host the nation’s largest oil spill exercise. (see full size)

“The role of the local base will be to coordinate response activities in the port and offshore,” said Coast Guard Lt. Commander David Sherry. “We’ll be working with state and industry partners as primary responders in the field and in the command post.”

Called Spill of National Significance, or SONS for short, the drill will involve more than 1,000 participants from the Coast Guard and many public and private partners including Shell Oil Products, the Environmental Protection Agency, Maine Department of Environmental Protection and Marine Spill Response Corp.

SONS 2010 also will involve a variety of land and sea resources including booms, trailers, barges skimmers and cutters. “It’s kind of like the Super Bowl of pollution exercises. That’s how we like to say it,” said Coast Guard Lt. Lisa Ceraolo.

  • PORTLANDBy noon Wednesday, the stress levels were rising in the ballroom at the Holiday Inn by the Bay.Dozens of people stationed around the room were responding to a mock oil spill disaster. Moments earlier, they had learned that the car carrier ship that had crashed into a tanker outside Portland Harbor, spilling 2 million gallons of crude owned by Shell Oil Co. two days earlier, had just sunk between Cushing Island and Portland Head Light, creating yet another spill.

    "This is designed to really push us," said Capt. James McPherson, commander of Coast Guard Sector Northern New England, who was leading the exercise.

    More than 500 people from dozens of public agencies and private businesses participated in the two-day drill to test the region’s emergency response system. The object was to try to contain the spill and begin to clean up the damage… »

USCG Media:

SONS2010 Participating Organizations:image

imageSpecial Thanks:

gCaptain and Casco Bay Boaters would like to extend a special note of thanks and appreciation to USCG Lt. Lisa Ceraolo, USCG SCPO John Hart, Commander Thomas Jones, Sr. Chief Joseph Butkovic, and the crews of the USCG Cutters Marcus Hanna and Shackle for their professionalism, helpfulness and accommodation, and most importantly, for keeping all of us safe while on the water.

Semper Paratus

Back to Main