Could Hawaii Handle A Large Oil Spill? - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Could Hawaii Handle A Large Oil Spill?

Tim Sawyer Tim Sawyer
Lt. John Titchen Lt. John Titchen

By Beth Hillyer

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- Large oil tankers deliver crude oil to Oahu refiners. Giant cargo ships could run aground. Are we prepared to handle a massive spill like the one that happened in San Francisco Bay?

Those involved with oil spill response say we have the best program in the nation. The crew of oil response ship Clean Islands are equipped to handle any sized spill. Cargo ships and cruise ships in Honolulu Harbor carry a lot of fuel. There's always the fear of an oil spill. Under federal law the ship is required to report a spill and that one call sets everything in motion.

"They start putting the resources on the board mark it on the board here is all the resources in the state of Hawaii, " said John Settenright with Marine Spill Response Corporation.

Coast Guard crew members will fly over the spill. They are the eyes and ears of the first responders. They assess it's size and pinpoint the exact location.

"We have the authority and jurisdiction where we oversee the response to an oil cleanup. It doesn't mean we clean it up, we help coordinate the response," said Coast Guard Spokesman, Lt. John Titchen.

One agency is the Clean Islands Council.

"So any given day if there is an oil spill we send out the page within 45 minutes, this boat is moving out of the harbor, " explained Ship Captain, Tim Sawyer.

They deploy booms to surround the spill then pump out the oil. The oil spill response ships are equipped with high tech tools to track the spill. This is an infrared camera that detects heated oil. There are also computer generated models to determine in which direction the slick is moving.

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