AMSA’s Manager for Crisis Preparedness and Response, Jamie Storrie, noted that the operation to manage a level three oil spill response was a huge undertaking.

Inclusion of traditional owners in a marine disaster exercise is paramount to its success and even more important in a real incident.

Specifically, the exercise aimed at exploring the impact of multiple release oil spill scenario occurring in waters adjacent to remote communities in the Torres Strait and Kaiwalagal Region. The scenario was considered plausible and was developed following extensive consultation.

The exercise was held in two phases:

  1. Phase One consisted of a discussion exercise that examined the wider operational and recovery issues of responding to an oil spill in very remote traditional communities. The discussion exercise was attended by over 100 participants representing 22 organisations and traditional owner groups.
  2. Phase Two saw a Queensland led Incident Management Team (IMT) working with a Forward Operating Base (FOB) to respond to the incident. The exercise commenced on day three of the incident with a handover from the outgoing IMT notionally played by Exercise Control. The field components of the exercise were held at locations in Cairns and Thursday, Poruma and Warraber Islands.

The Exercise Torres included key agencies, such as The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), The Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR), Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ), the Torres Shire Council and Torres Strait Island Regional Council (TSC and TSIRC), representatives of the Kaurareg people and the communities of Thursday, Sabai, Poruma and Warraber Islands. In addition, the broader QLD emergency management system was engaged through off-site exploration of recovery issues through the District Disaster Management Group (DDMG) and Local Disaster Management Group (LDMG).

After conducting both phases of the exercise, the Steering Committee reviewed the insights of the Evaluation Team and has identified lessons applicable to the training and engagement of Traditional Owners, National Plan Policy and Guidance, jurisdictional disaster management arrangements, planning, IMT Personnel and investigations.

These lessons address those insights that the committee considers priority issues.

The Exercise Steering Committee notes that the consistent focus throughout the exercise, including during its planning and preparation phase, is that inclusion of Traditional Owners is paramount to success.

We note that this will be even more vital in the event of an actual incident. The Steering Committee wishes to thank the Traditional Owners of the Torres Strait and the Kaiwalagal Region for their enthusiasm and engagement in Exercise Torres 2018.

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