Down on the Bayou with the TEEX Center for Marine Training & Safety

by Kirk Richardson

The morning mist begins to recede from Offatts Bayou as shops and businesses on Galveston Island open their doors in preparation for the daily surge of tourists. Over on the tarmac at Sholes Field, helicopters come to life as pilots complete their preflight check lists in preparation for their morning commutes to the production platforms and drilling rigs offshore.  Overhead, formations of pelicans begin their daily journey in search of food in the waters of Galveston Bay. 

Students prepare an anchor point

Meanwhile, amidst this daily routine, out on a point on the northern shore of Offatts Bayou, a group of emergency response personnel complete last minute preparations amidst equipment staged along the shoreline.  A responder slips an outboard motor into reverse and twists the throttle.  The boat slowly backs into the thinning mist off the gravel beach as six hundred feet of containment boom begins to slither off of the shoreline.  The boat, its crew, and the boom are headed for an area of wetlands around the point.  Their assignment is to establish a protective barrier off of that environmentally sensitive shoreline using the six hundred feet of oil containment boom and a series of anchoring systems to hold the boom in place.  Just up the shoreline and further upwind of the wetlands, other teams prepare to deploy deflection and collection booms in advance of the arrival of the approaching target.  The plan being implemented by this group of emergency responders involves the establishment of a “defense in depth” in advance of the approaching spill.

The slowly approaching spill isn’t oil this time, though. Its peat moss and the responders are engaged in one of several hands-on exercises that are part of a five day oil spill response course that is offered year round on Galveston Island by the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX).

On the water in Offats Bayou

TEEX offers oil spill response training at the Center for Marine Training and Safety (CMTS) located on the shores of Offatts Bayou on Galveston Island as well as on-site training at client’s locations across the country.  Courses run the gambit from 40 hour oil spill control courses to 24 hour refresher courses to customized oil spill response training tailored to individual client needs.  Classes can be tailored to emphasize either coastal or freshwater environments. 

Given the emphasis on hands-on training in all of our course offerings, Galveston, with its temperate Gulf Coast climate is an excellent location to serve as a base of operations for coastal and inland field operations.  Our recently expanded facility on Teichman road offers several thousand feet of water front on Offatts Bayou that serves as a venue for a variety of spill response scenarios.  Offatts Bayou also provides ample space for on-water spill recovery operations.  Additionally, Texas A&M facilities on adjacent Pelican Island offer shoreline for coastal field operations in deeper and more challenging waters.  Just across the causeway, the numerous bayous of the upper Texas coastal plains provide an environment for inland and shallow water operations.

Against the background of these different coastal environments, participants can engage in variety of field exercises and response strategies involving the deployment of a number of different booming strategies, skimming and oil recovery operations, water washing, and on water oil recovery.  At CMTS, participants can also observe a variety of skimmers collecting real oil in our demonstration tank.

By combining realistic training venues, an emphasis on hands-on training, an exposure to an ample supply and variety of spill response equipment, and a dedicated instructional staff, TEEX strives to provide the most effective learning environment possible for personnel tasked with oil spill response.

Both open enrollment and company sponsored classes are available.