Kimmo Vahanto, Neste: Joint Exercises Enhance Collaboration and Pave the Way for Effective Action in Real Situation

Kimmo Vahanto at the OIL SPILL Final Conference in November 2021 

Kimmo Vahanto, Neste

I was recently following a presentation about a massive oil spill response operation taking place in the Gulf of Mexico. The importance of cooperation was emphasized in this talk. Similarly, the OIL SPILL Project has focused on the importance of good collaboration between various actors related to the oil spill response. 

For us at Neste, the Sandö port of refuge tabletop exercise last spring was the most beneficial. Neste operates in a high-hazard environment where safety has strategic importance. We want to excel in risk management – and if an incident still happens, the most efficient measures should be in place. Sandö provided an excellent opportunity to test and practice the process when a vessel needs a port of refuge. It is a complicated and demanding procedure for the authorities and the other stakeholders involved.  

The Sandö multi-authority exercise was led by the Finnish Border Guard and Finnish Transport and Communications Agency. Local rescue authorities, ports and other relevant stakeholders were involved, and altogether over 50 people from 21 different organizations participated in it. OIL SPILL played a role as one of the initiators of the exercise, and Neste and the Southwest Finland Emergency Services were involved throughout the planning and execution phase. Due to the circumstances, the exercise was carried out remotely.  

Joint exercises are always great instances of learning, and Sandö served our interests well. Networking and interaction become natural when the stakeholders are sat around the same table. The exercise brought out issues that would not have been noticed without a concrete practice together. Recognizing the liaison persons from each party is one essential prerequisite for a smooth execution in a real-life situation. Also, the Finnish coast is extensive with a varying landscape and other conditions, and it became obvious that local knowledge and expertise from different fields play a crucial role in the decision-making and normalizing the situation. In addition, we identified certain needs for further development regarding the port of refuge process and started to update the work methods accordingly. 

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