Next up in our IOSC series, is a recap of a presentation by Cmdr. Tedd Hutley, commanding officer of the Atlantic Strike Team, titled “Tank Barge Argo: A Case Study on the Employment of NCP Special Teams.” The Argo was a small tank barge that sank in Lake Erie, Ohio in 1937 and began leaking over 70 years later.
Hutley’s presentation was part of the “Sunken Vessels” panel moderated by Coast Guard Cmdr. Mark Sawyer and Mr. David DeVilbiss with Global Diving and Salvage.
Tank Barge Argo: A Case Study on the Employment of NCP Special Teams
In any oil or hazardous materials spill response, the key to success is to have the right resources, in the right place, at the right time. Following Exxon Valdez, the National Contingency Plan required special teams be established to assist federal on scene coordinators to prevent or minimize the environmental impacts of oil spills. Members of these teams are highly trained and experienced in their respective areas.
In his remarks about the Argo response, Cmdr. Tedd Hutley, the incident commander, described the multitude of complexities of the case.
“It was a government-led response, which means there was no RP [responsible party], and we had the potential for a major oil spill,” Hutley said. Under the NCP, when no RP is identified, responsibility for clean up and funding of the incident falls to the federal government, through the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund or the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act. “It wasn’t tourist season, but it was a tourist destination, and it was in a sensitive freshwater environment. We were also faced with potential international border issues.”
Hutley went on to describe the many unknowns resulting from the very old intelligence available about the Argo: the exact type and quantity of petroleum and chemical product(s) onboard, and the vessel’s structural integrity and orientation on the seabed.
As operational complexity led to increased safety hazards, Hutley said the local field unit recognized the response would quickly exceed its ability to run a protracted response and require augmentation from the NCP special teams.
The NCP special teams utilized during the Argo response included:
District Response Advisory Team: The DRAT members have local knowledge about response equipment accessible in their region and identified people who possessed the expertise and skills needed to fill Incident Command System positions for Argo.
National Strike Force: NSF members are response and incident management technical experts and provide surge support for the federal on scene coordinator. They fill a variety of positions within the response structure, such as safety officer, branch director, and group supervisor.
Incident Management Assist Team: IMAT filled the logistics section chief, finance section chief, and safety officer positions.
Public Information Assist Team – PIAT drafted the public information plan, staffed the joint information center, and proactively addressed all aspects of public communication.
Salvage & Engineering Team – SERT experts have chemical engineering and naval architect backgrounds. They worked with salvage companies to develop proof of concept lightening plans and temporary storage plans.
NOAA’s Scientific Support Coordinators – SSCs integrate expertise from government agencies, industry, and academia to evaluate resources at risk and draft the geographic response plan. The SSC for Argo led the environmental unit and was responsible for air plume and oil movement monitoring, evaluating the effects of dispersants in the water column, among other activities.
Hutley said use of the special teams during such a complex case was critical to success. Subject matter experts in key leadership positions meant the federal on scene coordinator could focus on making good management and operational decisions and ensured the safety of the responders and the public.
Want to know more about the Argo response? Read NOAA’s case summary.
Want to read more from the Coast Guard during the International Oil Spill Conference? Check out our previous Maritime Commons posts.
6/5/2017: IOSC Recap #5 – USCG Sector Delaware Bay: Response to rail incidents planning project
5/25/2017: IOSC Recap #4-Tank Barge APEX 3508: Best practices for detection and recovery of sunken oil
5/25/2017: IOSC Recap #3-Tank Barge Argo: A case study on the employment of NCP special teams
5/23/2017: IOSC 2017 Recap #2-In a hostile environment? Skills needed for success
5/23/2017: IOSC 2017 Recap #1- Time for a refresh in the pre-spill planning consultation process
5/16/17: IOSC 2017 – Opening plenary session – Prevent, Prepare, Respond & Restore
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