A national marine pollution exercise starts on Tuesday 14 November in Hobart and the D'Entrecasteaux Channel region of Tasmania.
This year the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and TasPorts are conducting Exercise Thalassarche (pron. Thal-as-arc) between 14 and 16 November. The exercise is named for the Shy Albatross, a Tasmania endemic species listed as endangered under national law.
This exercise is a controlled, simulated event and not a real marine pollution incident.
Each year the AMSA joins with a host state or territory to practice implementing national oil spill response arrangements by simulating an oil spill scenario in a nominated area. The exercise will involve around 200 participants from across Australia, including those playing response roles, plus expert exercise mentors, evaluators, safety and control personnel.
The exercise will involve:
- an Incident Management Team operating from the State Emergency Services Operations Centre in Hobart; and
- a field response including on-water, shoreline and wildlife response activities at various locations in the D'Entrecasteaux, with a Forward Operating Base established at Dru Point, Margate.
In particular, the exercise will practice a significant oiled wildlife response involving setting up and staffing a wildlife hospital at Dru Point. Wildlife rehabilitation experts will be on hand to share their knowledge and provide hands-on instructions during the exercise.
It is important to note that no actual oil or other harmful substances are introduced to the environment during these annual exercises.
The exercise scenarios are designed to be realistic and give participants an opportunity to undertake best practice incident management, field-based activities, and working together, as they would do in a real-life incident.
While the likelihood of a large marine pollution incident is low in Tasmania, the results can be catastrophic, with impacts across environment, human/social, economic, transport and infrastructure dimensions. Therefore, it is critical to be prepared.
Members of the public are respectfully asked not to approach exercise participants working on beaches, at the simulated wildlife hospital at Dru Point, and on the water in the Derwent or D'Entrecasteaux Channel.
Also, during the exercise from 14 to 16 November, public access to Dru Point, Tinderbox Beach, and Snug Beach, will be limited for a short time for safety reasons and to allow the exercise to proceed efficiently.
Tasmania last hosted a National Plan exercise in 2006 and has continued to invest in training staff from multiple agencies in oil spill response. The value of this training was demonstrated during the 2022 Mersey River (Goliath) incident.