Former Chief of Latvian Coast Guard Hermanis Cernovs on Oil Spills: Hope for the Best but Expect the Worst! (2/3)

Latvian Maritime Academy engages the most experienced maritime specialists in its different projects and initiatives. Naval Captain Hermanis Cernovs is one of them. Once upon a time, he managed to deploy an oil spill response technical set (incl. skimmers, booms, sweeping arms) normally used for operations at open sea to combat heavy pollution in Daugava river. Technically it is the same as to use a cargo track for Formula-1 racing, but a non-routine situation requires non-routine solutions. Cernovs is eager to share his three-decade service experience with the OIL SPILL project.  

Hermanis Cernovs
(Photo: Elmārs Rudzītis, A.F.I. Latvijas Vestnesis)

In 2007, a heavy transboundary pollution accident happened: a damaged oil pipeline in northern Belarus discharged approximately 120 tons of diesel fuel into Daugava river. The huge oily spot was approaching the Latvian border slowly, brought by the river stream, and it was a matter of a few hours to rescue the local ecosystem. At that time, Cernovs was Chief of Latvian Coast Guard Service, and he recalls: 

“Despite all skeptics, we deployed the sea-duty equipment to create a barrier on river, and it was a success story. Of course, there was a bunch of challenges, such as the sizing of skimmers, coupling of booms, swampy terrains for tracks… However, we treated all these challenges as ‘technical issues’ to resolve, not as the ‘problems’. Such corporative psychology is a must in any project! 

All my experience regarding oil spill response supports the notion that we have to be ready for the maximum effort at any given instant. There are numerous risk assessment tools, but it is self-evident that heavy oil pollution on a coastline is just a matter of time. We might know what and how (also maybe where) will happen with quite a good level of certainty. However, the question when oil pollution will take place is the core of the whole project, in my opinion. Whether we will be ready to deploy volunteers in a timely and effective manner? I have doubts right now, but I will do my best in the framework of the project to dispel such doubts or, at least, to minimize them.”

Pollution response asset on Daugava river in March 2007 (Photo: Latvian Coast Guard Service)

Text: Aleksandrs Pavlovics / Latvian Maritime Academy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *