Coast Guard runs oil recovery exercise in Charleston Harbor


By Ava Wilhite

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV/AP) -- The Coast Guard in Charleston is testing its ability to respond to an oil spill.

The Coast Guard Cutter Oak was scheduled to test equipment in Charleston Harbor all day on Wednesday. The equipment is the same used to recover oil during the response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico three years ago.

"Getting everybody trained on this specific application is crucial because if something does happen like Deep Water again people will be trained and ready to use the application properly," said Petty Officer 1st Class Sean Hawes. {}

Hawes was a part of the rotating crew during that incident.

The exercise is designed to test the cutter's capabilities and refresh the crew in procedures used in responding to oil spills.

The Oak is one of a few cutters that has the equipment used for the spilled oil recovery system, a technique used to help clean up the Deep Water Horizon oil spill. {}

"We were out there you know days on end you saw the news. So, we've even had transfer periods during deep water horizon. It was a challenge to bring new people aboard and send the old people off that were qualified," said Hawes.

That's why this crew is working hard to make sure everyone is prepared.

It's a somewhat complex system with the rigging and just the operations with the buoy and getting it overboard," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Heather Clark.

Clark says as a team they've already gone through rigging lines, hydraulics and skimming systems.{}

"It's good for us to be able to get out and practice this because we rotate through our stations every four years or so. So we just want to be able to keep our mission up to date and make sure that our crews are proficient in performing these operations," said Clark. {}

The training mission will take hours to complete, but the crew also knows should a real spill occur, the simulation will become a constant rotation of workers.

"Depending on the size of the spill we could be running a 24-hour operation for days or weeks," said Clark.

The Oak Crew will use this opportunity to practice communication with other agencies or crews concerning the drill. The practice mission will not be graded.

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