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French Navy involvement

On the 20th February 1996, just five days after the Sea Empress went aground, the Port Admiral’s Office in Brest (PréMar Atlantique) offered to send two Navy vessels with response equipment to help their British colleagues in Wales.
The British Authorities immediately accepted this offer of assistance. The supply ship Ailette and the regional support vessel Elan set sail from Brest on the morning of the 21st February 1996 with a full complement of responders.
Both the Ailette and the Elan had multipurpose equipment for lightering, recovery/skimming, storage and dispersant spraying. Apart from the crew, CEPPOL, Cedre and Brest Port Authorities seconded support personnel to the operation.

The Port Admiral entrusted management and co-ordination of the response operation to the OIC of CEPPOL who was on board the Ailette.
MPCU (Marine Pollution Control Unit) allocated response jobs to both vessels on the scene of operations.
The British Authorities availed themselves of the French recovery systems for eight days running during which 2,500 tonnes of emulsion were recovered and stored on board the Ailette.
The TRANSREC 250 was fielded for the very first time in an operational setting and responded very well in the circumstances.
The TRANSREC was deployed in sea states 4 and 5 and achieved nominal performance. Manoeuvrability was excellent and only one responder was needed to operate the system. There can be no doubt that the TRANSREC is in a class of its own for high capacity recovery.
The oil to be pumped was very viscous (20,000 cSt) with a water content of about 80%.
Both the Ailette and the Elan manoeuvre very well. Their propulsion systems are very flexible which makes for quick and easy boom deployment and positioning.

This assignment proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that a real live operation bears no comparison with a standard pollution exercise as it requires a lot of time and dedication from the crewmembers involved in the response operation.
The assignment of the French Navy vessels in Wales taught us a great deal in itself. It will be a precursor for better international co-operation. 
In all likelihood, this assignment will set new standards for people’s hopes and expectations in addition to promoting cross boundary co-operation in the field of pollution response which in the future will be available more readily and as often as needed.



Ailette :

  • TRANSREC 250 skimmer 
  • two hydraulic power packs 
  • a TK5 (190 cu.m per hr) lightering pump 
  • two dispersant spray booms 
  • 30 cu. m. third generation dispersant 
  • 110 m ALL MARITIM boom 
  • 150 m POLLUGUARD boom 
  • two bunker reheating systems 
  • two power packs 
  • 140 m hose pipes 
  • TRANSREC-TK5 pump adapter

Elan :

  • two dispersant spray booms 
  • 12 cu. m. of third generation dispersant
Last update on 17/07/2003
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