The Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) is an executive agency of the Department for Transport. Among its duties, the Agency is responsible for countering oil pollution on the UK coast and waters; It also provides a 24-hour maritime search and rescue (SAR) service around the UK coast, aeronautical SAR and aviation support to the Police for inland SAR.
RVL Group is contracted by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency to operate fixed-wing aircraft on its behalf, primarily in a counter pollution role but also in the airborne delivery of dispersant fluid upon mineral oil spills at sea.
24 Hours/365 Days
The aircraft operated by RVL Group are on standby 24 hours/365 days per year. Whilst the dispersant spraying aircraft are exclusively utilised for large mineral oil spills; the surveillance aircraft are dispatched to a variety of incidents – the majority of which fall within the core counter-pollution role, however, the aircraft are also available for search and rescue operations.
Integrated Framework of Surveillance
The types of counter-pollution incidents which the surveillance aircraft are dispatched to can vary in nature. Broadly speaking, the aircraft and aircrew are prepared to deal with large-scale pollution disasters which are thankfully rare, alongside chronic pollution which results from operational discharges associated with shipping and the offshore oil and gas industry. In both instances, the aircraft form part of a framework that also includes satellite observation – which is the routine means of counter-pollution surveillance undertaken by the MCA.
Not Just Oil!
As previously mentioned, our surveillance aircraft deal with a variety of marine pollution incidents, not just those relating to mineral oil – which reflects the UK governments obligations under international law to address many types of marine pollution from shipping. The following examples illustrate the range of incidents which we have been deployed to:
Tour d’Horizon – North Sea States, February 2016
The Bonn Agreement facilitates partnership between countries in the North Sea area, so that best practice can be shared, and in the event of a large pollution incident, those states can work together in a coordinated response. One way that we work together is during an operation called Tour d͛Horizon. This consists of a number of patrols over the North Sea, concentrated on the offshore oil and gas infrastructure, to identify incidents of marine pollution. Rather than remaining in the UK Exclusive Economic Zone, we patrol the North Sea as a whole, visiting other states during the deployment.
Hazardous Noxious Substance in Packaged Form – Cornwall, January 2016
G-TURF, call-sign ‘Coastguard 61’, was dispatched to Cornwall following reports of a large number of plastic bottles having washed ashore in the vicinity of Mounts Bay and Lizard Point. The bottles are believed to have spilled from a shipping container that was lost overboard from a cargo vessel in bad weather, several months prior. The aircraft was used to map concentrations of the bottles along the coastline and out at sea.
Lost Shipping Containers – Western English Channel, 2014
A number of shipping containers were lost overboard from a cargo vessel while transiting through the English Channel in bad weather. The MCA counter pollution aircraft completed a series of flights and successfully located several containers that were drifting at sea.
RVL has maintained a successful working partnership with the MCA for some 16 years now and continues to deliver results.