Singapore, Malaysian authorities take part in chemical spill drill off Pulau Ubin

SINGAPORE - Singapore and Malaysia's marine authorities carried out a simulated exercise off Pulau Ubin to see how they would deal with a collision between two tankers that sends 500 tonnes of a highly flammable chemical into the sea.

Within minutes, the Singapore Civil Defence Force's (SCDF) Marine Firefighting Vessel created a water curtain to suppress the vaporizing benzene, and its officers evacuated a casualty.

The exercise was conducted by the Marine and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and Marine Department of Malaysia (MDM) on Thursday (July 12) to test the joint emergency response plan for chemical spill incidents in the East Johor Strait.

The 90-minute exercise was part of a bilateral cooperation programme under the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Committee on the Environment.

It was developed by the MPA, MDM, the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Johor Department of Environment (DOE).

The chemical tanker suffered damage to its cargo tanks and two crew members were injured. SCDF's officers evacuated one casualty who needed immediate medical attention onto a Police Coast Guard vessel which took him back to shore.

The exercise also simulated a response to a gas leak that would be detectable to residents in surrounding areas. In the event of such a chemical spill, the MPA will implement the Chemical Contingency Plan (Marine), which covers the roles and responsibilities of the responding agencies for the clean-up operations.

The authority led Singapore's part of the joint response efforts in spillage clean-up and environment monitoring around the affected tanker, as well as the evacuation procedure.

Meanwhile, the NEA monitored the air and water quality for signs of chemical contamination near the shorelines, and exchanged information with the DOE.

Seven vessels and 50 officers from participating agencies in Singapore supported the exercise, including the Police Coast Guard, SCDF, Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, National Parks Board, Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore and Oil Spill Response Limited.

MPA chief executive Andrew Tan said: "As chemical or oil spills are transboundary in nature, it is important that we conduct regular bilateral exercises with our immediate neighbours to strengthen regional and multi-agency response capabilities.

"Today's exercise ensures that all agencies are ready to respond swiftly and effectively in the event of a chemical spill."

NEA chief executive officer Mr Ronnie Tay said: "Chemical spills can have a far-reaching impact on the environment and people. We are glad to have participated in this multi-agency exercise, which has allowed us to test our preparedness and sharpen our bilateral response in mitigating chemical spill incidents in the Straits of Johor."