Protecting the Environment: Shipyard Practices Oil Spill Response

Story Number: NNS160713-03Release Date: 7/13/2016 8:46:00 AM
A  A  A   Email this story to a friend   Print this story
By Steve Sipple, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility

BREMERTON, Wash. (NNS) -- "There's been an oil spill; deploy the response teams."

Words like these are heard regularly at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility (PSNS & IMF), preceded by, "This is a drill."

That's because Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility conducts oil spill drills regularly -- most recently June 30 -- to make sure responders are ready to protect the environment.

"We maintain and modernize the fleet, but that mission also carries with it other important responsibilities like being good stewards of our environment," said Tammy Brown, head of PSNS & IMF's Environmental, Safety and Health Program Oversight, Spill Management, and Business Resources Division. "Our teams take this training seriously because they know it leads to a quicker and more effective response."

The June 30 drill, called an equipment deployment exercise, was part of the biannual requirement under the National Preparedness for Response Exercise Program. It's also how the Navy meets many federal and state drill requirements.

The exercise involved a simulated oil spill near the west end of Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton on Sinclair Inlet.

The ESH Assessment, Spill Prevention and Response team and the shipyard's Temporary Services Shop General Maintenance spill responders established the command post on shore to direct the response effort.

After a comprehensive personnel safety brief, a Temporary Services boat crew transported an industrial hygiene team to the simulated spill location to perform air sampling. Temporary Services boat crews then deployed a skimmer, a response boom and a utility boat to perform enhanced skimming operations, which are designed to contain and recover oil on the water and minimize impacts to the environment.

This requires complex coordination between two boat crews and included multiple towing configurations. While recovery techniques were being used at the spill site, additional Temporary Services spill responders deployed three boat crews to set up an oil deflection and collection strategy, or Geographic Response Plan strategy, at the Port Orchard Marina.

GRPs are booming strategies developed to protect environmentally sensitive areas. They are detailed in the Northwest Area Contingency Plan managed by the Washington Department of Ecology. The WDOE is currently updating all Puget Sound GRPs, and the one executed two weeks ago was a new design.

This new design required personnel to deploy several hundred feet of response boom, with the intent of deflecting oil away from the marina and creating a collection point for any escaping oil. A Temporary Services vacuum truck and portable skimmer responded to the marina to collect oil.

"[Temporary Services] was terrific," said Brown. "Thanks to their efforts, the enhanced skimming and GRP deployment operations were successful, and the exercise was graded as satisfactory. Our thanks to [Temporary Services] for helping to keep us ready to respond!"

Note: Steve Sipple works in PSNS & IMF's Environmental, Safety and Health Program Spill Prevention and Response Branch.

For more information, visit,, or

For more news from Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility, visit

Navy Supervisor of Salvage craft deploy equipment during an oil spill response drill  at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.
Official U.S. Navy file photo of an oil spill response drill.
April 10, 2014
Navy Social Media
Sign up for email updates To sign up for updates or to access your subscriber preferences, please click on the envelope icon in the page header above or click Subscribe to Navy News Service .