That was the question from a reader who called The News Tribune this morning after seeing a lot of maritime activity on Commencement Bay.
The answer is no.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the marine spills response unit is conducting a drill on the water.
The exercise involves the Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers and state Department of Ecology.
The state Department of Ecology sent out a press release about this exercise yesterday. Here it is:
A practice oil-spill response will test the readiness and skills needed for the real thing in Commencement Bay on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011.
The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) will evaluate the ability of Marine Spill Response Corp. (MSRC) to deploy boats, oil-skimming equipment and oil-containment boom during the drill Tuesday morning in Commencement Bay near Tacoma. MSRC acts on behalf of major shipping lines that call on Northwest ports.
“Being prepared for oil spills is part of Ecology’s effort to reduce toxic threats to public safety, health and the environment, and to support the statewide initiative to protect and restore Puget Sound,” said Linda Pilkey-Jarvis, manager of Ecology’s spills preparedness section.
By participating in the drill, MSRC’s customers will fulfill part of the Washington state oil-spill preparedness requirements. Larger ships and facilities must develop, update and practice oil spill contingency plans.
It will rehearse pre-set strategies – called Geographic Response Plans (GRP) – that enable a rapid response to protect the state’s most highly-valued environmental, cultural and economic resources from oil-spill damage.
The drill involves practice with spill-containment boom, oil-skimming vessels and other boats. No oil will be placed in the water.
The crew-and-equipment deployment exercise includes six MSRC vessels and two others for observation. Crews will deploy several thousand feet of floating boom during the drill. Two other boats will use additional boom to practice a “U” or “V” formation for gathering oil slicks for removal b oil skimmers. At least three of the vessels in the drill will be skimmers.
MSRC is a private, not-for-profit company funded by the Marine Preservation Association whose members include companies that develop, produce, refine and transport petroleum and petroleum based products. Eight of these companies are sponsoring the drill: Polar Tankers, BP Shipping, US Oil, Sound Refining, Conoco Phillips Terminal Tacoma, Alaska Tanker Co., Harley Marine Services and SeaRiver Maritime.
Ecology will observe and evaluate the drill.
Spill-response drills form part of Ecology’s ongoing commitment to fulfill the Legislature’s mandate of zero spills to state waters, protect the public and the environment from toxic threats, and to meet the statewide goal of protecting, preserving and restoring Puget Sound.