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Officers from Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), National Environment Agency of Singapore (NEA) and Marine Department of Malaysia (MDM) observing the exercise (Source: MPA).

Malaysia and Singapore conduct joint exercise to tackle chemical spill at East Johor Strait

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and the Marine Department of Malaysia (MDM) conducted a joint chemical spill exercise at sea along the East Johor Strait to test the Joint Emergency Response Plan (ERP) for Chemical Spill Incidents in the East Johor Strait on Thursday (12 July).

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

In a press release, the authorities stated that the objective of the joint ERP is to respond to and mitigate chemical accidents involving the seaborne transportation of hazardous chemicals along the East Johor Strait. The emergency response exercise is part of the bilateral cooperation programme under the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Committee on the Environment (MSJCE).

In the event of a chemical spill incident at sea, MPA stated that it will implement the Chemical Contingency Plan (Marine), which covers the roles and responsibilities of the responding agencies for the clean-up operations.

Under this plan, MPA will monitor and coordinate clean-up operations at sea, while NEA will monitor the air and water quality, and coordinate clean-up efforts at affected shore areas.

Exercise CHEMSPILL 2018 comprised a joint table-top exercise on 10 July 2018, followed by a full-scale ground deployment exercise which simulated a collision between a fully laden chemical tanker and a product tanker near Tajam Beacon, off Pulau Ubin.

As part of the simulation, the chemical tanker suffered damages to its cargo tanks, and some 500 tonnes of Benzene were spilled into the sea, while the product tanker suffered minor damages.

Due to the incident, two crew members of the chemical tanker were also injured. One was unconscious, while the other required immediate evacuation for medical attention.

The exercise also simulated a gasoline-like odour that was detected by residents around Kampung Pasir Putih in Johor Bahru, staff from Outward Bound School at Pulau Ubin, and fish farmers at Nenas Channel.

MPA then led Singapore’s part of the joint response efforts with Malaysia in areas such as spillage clean-up, environment monitoring around the affected tanker and evacuation procedure. NEA supported the exercise by monitoring the air and water quality for signs of chemical contamination near the shorelines, and exchanging information with DOE. In total, Singapore deployed seven vessels and 50 officers from participating agencies to support the exercise.

Mr Andrew Tan, MPA's Chief Executive 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’s 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.”

SCDF Patrol boat launches its water jets to suppress water vapours in the air (Source: MPA).
Tugboat from Johor Port Berhad launches its water jets to suppress water vapours in the air (Source: MPA).
Simulated evacuation of injured crew members off the chemical tanker (Source: MPA).
Part of the simulated exercise shows how the evacuated crew members will be brought to shore by a coordinated effort between the SCDF and PCG (Source: MPA).

Information about the MSJCE and agencies participating in the exercise can be found here.