The annual Baltic Sea exercise on pollution response BALEX DELTA 2017 was held off Kaliningrad in the Russian Federation last week. Sixteen ships and three helicopters from five Baltic coastal states formed the HELCOM fleet, simulating a real-time search and rescue operation and an oil spill response.

The scenario of the exercise was a fire on an oil production platform, involving a risk of loss of human life as well as a leak of 5,000 tons of crude oil threatening the nearby highly sensitive nature areas. "This amount of crude oil is too big for any Baltic country to combat alone", said exercise Commander Mr Andrey Khaustov, head of the Marine Rescue Service of Rosmorrechflot, Russian Federation.

A large-scale national on-shore exercise was organized simultaneously, rehearsing deployment of the clean-up units and coordination between all the actors involved. Almost 30 persons, some from outside the region, signed up as observers of the exercise.

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Vessels working to extinguish the simulated fire on the platform C-9 "LUKOIL-Kaliningradmorneft" and to cover the fire fighting tug with water spray.

The HELCOM BALEX DELTA 2017 exercise was hosted this year by the Marine Rescue Service of Rosmorrechflot in cooperation with Rosmorport, the Russian state enterprise that promotes safe navigation to Russian seaports. The news material provided by the hosts can be found via the following links (in Russian):

BALEX DELTA has been a regular HELCOM practice for almost thirty years. It forms part of the cooperative work for response to pollution incidents in the Baltic Sea, one of the most vulnerable and busiest sea areas in the world. All HELCOM member states take turns in hosting the annual exercise, which is the largest maritime counter-pollution drill of its kind and one of the largest worldwide.

The aim of BALEX DELTA is to test the alarm procedures and the response capability of the HELCOM countries. Cooperation between combating units as well as staff functions are tested and rehearsed. The exercise also targets communication between the involved units and all the participating countries, as well as the interaction between offshore response units and shoreline clean-up units. At the same time, thanks to this year's large onshore response exercise, the national capabilities and alert procedures concerning shoreline clean-up were also tested.

Background

Balex Delta operational response exercises have been held annually since 1989. Throughout this time HELCOM has steadily improved the readiness of the countries around the Baltic to jointly respond to oil spills at sea. Regional cooperation on preparedness and response to pollution incidents has however much longer roots, being a part of the first 1974 Helsinki Convention and followed by a series of related Recommendations right at the start of the permanent HELCOM activities in the early 1980s. The first meeting of the expert group on pollution response took place in 1977.

Today, with over 80 per cent of global merchandise trade by volume carried by sea and handled by ports worldwide[1], the economic importance of maritime transport – and the risk of collisions and other accidents – cannot be overemphasized. In the Baltic Sea, ship traffic is dense and maritime transport has been in the increase in the recent past.

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Note to Editors:

The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, usually referred to as the Helsinki Commission, or HELCOM, is an intergovernmental organisation of all the nine Baltic Sea countries and the EU which works to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution. HELCOM is the governing body of the "Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area," known as the Helsinki Convention.

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For more information, please contact:

Heli Haapasaari
Chair of HELCOM Response Working Group

Finnish Environment Institute – SYKE

Tel: +358 40 1793050

E-mail: heli.haapasaari(at)environment.fi

Valtteri Laine
Project Manager (OPENRISK)
HELCOM
+358 40 352 7689
E-mail: valtteri.laine(at)helcom.fi


[1] UNCTAD, Review of Maritime Transport 2015.