Singapore, Malaysia conduct first Johor Straits chemical-spill exercise

The Maritime Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and the Malaysia Marine Department on Wednesday conducted their first-ever joint chemical spill exercise at sea along the Straits of Johor.

The exercise is meant to enhance both sides' preparedness to tackle potential chemical accidents that involve "seaborne transportation of hazardous chemicals in the Straits of Johor", said the MPA and the National Environment Agency in a statement.

This comes on the back of Malaysia's state oil and gas company Petronas confirming last week that it would build a refining and petrochemicals project at Pengerang in Johor, at the eastern end of the Johor Straits. This will start operations by 2019.

In the event of an incident, MPA will monitor and coordinate clean up operations at sea while NEA will monitor the air and water quality and coordinate the clean up efforts at any affected shore areas, the agencies said.

Since 1998, the MPA has conducted several previous chemical spill exercises, both in the field and on paper, to deal with chemicals like xylene, toluene, and benzene. These highly flammable chemicals are used as solvents and as feedstocks for other processes.

MPA chief executive Andrew Tan said: "Regional cooperation is important as incidents at sea resulting in chemical and oil spills are often trans-boundary in nature. This is the first bilateral exercise we have conducted to tackle a chemical spill at sea.

"Such an exercise allows us to test regional and multi-agency response capabilities so that we are ever ready and well-prepared to respond swiftly and effectively to any maritime accidents, be it a collision, chemical leak or oil spill."