Exercise Snowdon, a major maritime exercise to be conducted by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), is scheduled to take place off Anglesey in North Wales on Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8 February

More than 200 people will be taking part, representing over 25 agencies and organisations. Exercise Snowdon will test the interaction between the MCA, local ports and organisations that provide emergency services around North Wales. It will test national and local authorities and emergency services preparedness for a major maritime incident in the area.

Including search and rescue operations and counter pollution activities, the exercise will be conducted in real time throughout both days, with only the initial key incidents pre-planned. The search and rescue phase will be co-ordinated from Her Majesty’s Coastguard Co-ordination Centre at Holyhead.

A Salvage Control Unit and a Marine Response Cell will be set up locally for the exercise in order to deal with the “pseudo” oil recovery at sea. The local authorities will set up a rest centre and a shoreline counter pollution response centre. The media will be played by journalists from a real media training company and will be joined by press officers from the Central Office of Information.

Exercise Director, Peter Morris says, ‘Exercise Snowdon will be one of the largest maritime emergency and counter pollution exercises ever to be held in the UK. Local and national oil spill contingency plans of the participating authorities will be exercised to test the alerting, mobilisation and management of resources for search and rescue and the welfare of survivors; counter pollution at sea and on the shoreline and marine emergency salvage operations.’

John Garner, Head of Operations at the MCA says, ‘Exercises of this kind are invaluable in testing the MCA’s search and rescue, counter pollution and salvage procedures during a major incident at sea. We will be building on experience gained during recent incidents, such as the grounding of the ‘Dole America’ off the Isle of Wight, and the ‘Multitank Ascania’ fire on board a chemical tanker in the Pentland Firth. Also from previous national exercises such as Exercise Dalriada in the Clyde, Exercise Humex in Humber and, more recently, Exercise Kernow’ last year in Falmouth. Exercise Snowdon will use live assets including RNLI lifeboats, Sea King helicopters from the Royal Air Force at Valley, and oil spill response equipment will be deployed at sea and near the shoreline to provide actual booming in certain areas.’

The emergency planning departments, in liaison with many other organisations, aim to ensure the safety of the public and the protection of our coastal environment. It will be interesting to see how, and if, so many organisations, including the Fire and Police services, manage to work effectively together.