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Coastal authorities practice for potential oil spills

DPA/The Local · 1 Jul 2010, 10:46

Published: 01 Jul 2010 10:46 GMT+02:00

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Tens of thousands of ships pass through German waters along the North Sea and Baltic Sea coasts each year, making the danger of a tanker spill a daily reality. But the Central Command for Maritime Emergencies (CCME) believes it is prepared for the worst, conducting 160 emergency exercises each year.

On Wednesday, the Haveriekommando, as they are known in German, threw massive quantities of popcorn into the North Sea at Schillig near the UNESCO protected Wattenmeer tidal mudflats. The popcorn clean-up emulates that of an oil slick operation because the crunchy snack rests on the water’s surface, but doesn’t harm the area’s sensitive ecosystem, the organisation said.

But no matter how many practice clean up operations authorities command, it’s still impossible to be ready for a spill as big as the one yet to be contained in the Gulf of Mexico, CCME head Hans-Werner Monsees said.

“One can’t prepare for such a scenario. It’s far too expensive,” he said, adding that the likelihood of a similar spill along German shorelines is small.

Furthermore, the country’s coastal protection mechanisms are better armed to handle such an ordeal, he said. States there have cooperated to raise their disaster capacity to tackle an oil leak from a tanker collision.

“In total, 23 oil clean-up ships are at the ready along German coasts in the case of an emergency, and some are constantly at sea,” CCME spokesman Ulrike Windhövel said, adding that neighbouring countries are also ready to provide support.

Meanwhile environmental group the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said that Europe has better regulations in place to properly combat an oil spill than the United States.

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“The shipping organisations have certainly learned from past accidents. The Europeans are further along than the Americans,” WWF expert Stephan Lutter said, citing unified laws and environmental safety tests.

But even these would be no match for a big spill, he said, adding that the CCME would also be “overwhelmed” in the case of a huge spill.

DPA/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

12:54 July 1, 2010 by dcgi
Maybe go 'practice' in the Gulf of Mexico
13:58 July 1, 2010 by NYsteve
The Gulf is a mess...Hurricane Alex hit shore in Texas/Mexico....all the skimmer ships, support vessels had to leave the area......what a unbelievable situation.....pray this never happens in your area....or better yet...NEVER AGAIN......we have to get away from OIL!
16:14 July 1, 2010 by hkypuck
This whole oil mess makes me embarassed to be an American, and work in the technical trades.
17:15 July 1, 2010 by Prufrock2010
dcgi is right. How about sending a few of those 23 oil clean-up ships to the Gulf? The oil spewing there is not American oil. It goes on the open market along with all the other oil. Americans are the first to help others when they need it. How about some reciprocity from Europe?
09:03 July 2, 2010 by auniquecorn
@ hkypuck

How in the world can another countrys accident in open waters make you embarassed to be an American? Do you really think that low of america? I guarentee every country involved in this accident and cleanup are giving 110% effort to get this under control and loosing Billions of dollars doing it.

Acually this embarasses me because I responded to your dumb ass remark.
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