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Media Release - Slick response to spill exercise on the Torres Strait

Posted on: 
Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Media Statements

Minister for Transport and Main Roads
The Honourable Mark Bailey

Slick response to spill exercise on the Torres Strait

Minister for Transport and Main Roads
The Honourable Mark Bailey

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Slick response to spill exercise on the Torres Strait

A two-day exercise to test Queensland’s readiness to respond to an oil pollution incident will play out in the Torres Strait this week.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said government and maritime agencies would join Torres Strait community leaders to test their preparedness for a serious oil spill in the region’s unique marine environment.

“There are already extensive protections in place to keep the risk of a ship-sourced oil spill as low as possible,” Mr McCormack said.

“However, we have a responsibility to this environmentally and culturally sensitive area to ensure our readiness to respond is at the highest possible standard.”

Mr McCormack said Exercise Torres 2018 was an example of the full-scale practice exercises regularly conducted under the National Plan for Maritime Emergencies.

“Exercises like this are vital in testing our national response capability and protecting our waterways,” Mr McCormack said.

“Every year, exercises are held in different locations across the nation.”

Participants will use equipment deployed in an oil spill scenario at three separate locations, Thursday Island (Bach Beach), Warraber Island and Poruma Island.

Queensland Transport and Main Road Minister Mark Bailey said the International Maritime Organisation has declared the Torres Strait as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area recognising the marine ecosystem and its vulnerability to damage by shipping incidents.

“The Torres Strait must be supported by appropriate protective measures to prevent, reduce or eliminate the risk of marine pollution,” Mr Bailey said.

“The state and commonwealth governments have strategies aimed at reducing the risk of a shipping incident in the Torres Strait, but we must also be prepared just in case.

“I encourage community members to come along and see how our oil spill experts would respond in the event of an incident.”

Federal Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch said Far North Queenslanders were extremely passionate about their natural environment.

“While this training will ensure our readiness, hopefully it will never be put into practice,” Mr Entsch said.

“The Torres Strait is a particularly sensitive ecosystem and this training exercise will go a long way to mitigating an environmental crisis should the unthinkable happen.”

State Member for Cook Cynthia Lui said participants would include local residents.

“There will be a community night held at each of the locations to show the community what has already been done to defend against marine pollution incidents,” Ms Lui said.

Ms Lui said Torres Strait included more than 270 islands, 17 with permanent settlements and a total population of about 7000 people.

“Torres Strait is ecologically significant with extensive sea grass and internationally important breeding populations of dugongs and turtles as well as commercial prawn and lobster fisheries,” Ms Lui said.

“It is also integral to international shipping, making trade economically feasible between Australia and Asia.

“The Torres Strait Islanders’ culture has a strong connection to sea and Torres Strait Islanders have traditionally relied on the marine environment for subsistence, cultural and economic purposes.

“Torres Strait communities are already resilient but by working more closely with the local and community disaster management groups we can further increase their capacity to respond to the potential effects of a maritime incident on their islands.”

Exercise ‘Torres 2018’ will run at various locations in the Torres Straits region for a week, including the real-time drill on September 19-20.

The exercise will be co-hosted by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and Maritime Safety Queensland, in partnership with trained responders from around Australia and overseas, Torres Strait Regional Authority rangers, council and community members.


Media contact: Toby Walker - 0439 347 875