Marine Pollution Officer in the EPA Division Letitia Lamb and colleague Rosemary Cross have received the call-up to join the marine oil pollution response to the vessel grounded off the coast of New Zealand’s north island.
Letitia was one of a number of experienced DPIPWE staff from Tasmania on a stand-by list and said officials from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) rang her on Tuesday night to see if she was available to fly to New Zealand on Thursday morning.
"I’ll fly in and expect to be briefed in the afternoon before starting out early Friday," Letitia said yesterday as she packed before she left Hobart. Her role will be as a team leader to the Australian contingent - a team of around 30 experienced oil spill responders from the National Response Team and the Australian Marine Oil Spill Centre.
"My task is to provide logistical advice to the Australians, helping them with their requirements, letting them know where to go and who to report to," Letitia said. "Much of my time will be spent inside coordinating activities. Safety is paramount in these situations so I’ll be making sure people don’t get fatigued and keeping a check on them."
This is not the first time Letitia has taken on this important job. She assumed a logistical role when asked to join the response to the Montara Wellhead in the Timor Sea off the north west of Australia in August 2009 and was a team leader in 2006 after an oil spill off Gladstone in Queensland. Letitia has also had experience cleaning oiled wildlife when the Iron Barron grounded near the mouth of the Tamar River in July 1995.
"From past experience, I have learned to be flexible because every incident is different. There is not set routine and unfortunately the only way to gain experience is to be part of a response such as this."
EPA Division colleague Rosemary Cross is already in New Zealand, on hand as a shoreline team leader.
"Rosemary has had good experience as a shoreline team leader, having adopted the same role when called upon to give assistance during the Morton Island clean-up off the coast of south-east Queensland in March 2009," Letitia said. "Her role this time is to coordinate the shoreline response team and help keep them safe."
"AMSA has a rotation of people who may be called upon for the New Zealand response, and that includes other EPA Division and DPIPWE staff, including three experts from Resource Management and Conservation who have been placed on standby to assist in aerial monitoring of the oil spill and wildlife rehabilitation," Letitia said.
Both Letitia and Rosemary expect their stay in New Zealand to be part of a ten-day turn around. When back in Hobart, Letitia is the Marine Pollution Officer in the EPA Division and spends most of her time coordinating training and making sure the agencies involved in the state’s marine oil spill response efforts get to know how to work together.
"The best way is practice and we often run workshops which bring in experts to look at various scenarios," she said.
The EPA Division is the designated Statutory Agency for oil spill response in Tasmania under Australia's National Plan to Combat Pollution of the Sea by Oil and other Noxious and Hazardous Substances, which is managed by AMSA.
For more information on AMSA’s National Plan, visit: here
For updates from New Zealand, click here