The Bay of Algeciras, the setting for a two-day simulation of a toxic chemical spill.

The Ministry of Transport, Mobility, and Urban Agenda (Mitma), through the Maritime Captaincy of Algeciras, in collaboration with the Marine Pollution Department of the General Directorate of the Merchant Navy (DGMM), is conducting a two-day exercise to combat marine pollution, simulating an emergency with a toxic chemical cloud resulting from a chemical spill.

This is the eighth exercise of this kind carried out in Spain in recent months as part of the European project IRA-MAR, in which the Marine Pollution Department of the DGMM is tasked with evaluating the behaviour of chemical toxic clouds in Spanish ports. In total, up to 12 such exercises will be conducted in other Spanish ports.

This simulated test aims to activate the structures and check the operational procedures established to respond to a hypothetical marine pollution incident caused by a chemical spill. It also assesses the degree of coordination among the involved parties and the manner and timing of the response to the emergency.

In essence, it examines the responsiveness of the Spanish maritime administration in terms of direction, coordination, and effectiveness in the event of a chemical pollution incident involving hazardous liquid substances. After its completion, any deficiencies that may have occurred, whether technical or related to resources and personnel, will be identified.

Toxic spill in the Port of Bahía de Algeciras

In the case of Algeciras, the exercise is set in the area of the Cepsa pier in the Port of Bahía de Algeciras and involves simulating a leak of a toxic and dangerous product, such as benzene, on the deck of a chemical tanker moored at the pier. The leak will be caused by human error, and due to confusion, the ship will become stranded on the starboard side in the sandy bottom.

This is a tabletop exercise, meaning that there will be no deployment of material and human resources for pollution control. The key stakeholders in the response are participating, including the Maritime Captaincy of Algeciras, Maritime Rescue, the Port Authority of Algeciras, Emergency 112 Andalusia, and those responsible for the Marine Pollution Department of the DGMM, in collaboration with other agencies.

During the simulation, which will last until tomorrow, the Port's Self-Protection Plan in category 3, the National Maritime Plan in situation 2, and the Regional Emergency Plan of Andalusia will be activated, and the trajectory of the toxic cloud will be analysed using the ALOHA modelling program.

Guaranteeing response to potential real emergencies

The Ministry, through the General Directorate of the Merchant Navy, continuously works to enhance response systems for potential maritime emergencies caused by pollution of any kind.

In the coming weeks, additional simulations of marine pollution by toxic cloud will be conducted in Tarragona, Barcelona, Las Palmas, and Tenerife.

In January 2024, the DGMM will hold a meeting with all the international representatives of the IRA-MAR project and Spanish institutions involved in maritime emergencies to showcase best practices observed and areas for improvement in responding to such incidents.