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The Coast Guard Research and Development Center (RDC), in support of the RDC’s ongoing oil-in-ice research program, conducted a simulated spilled oil response and recovery demonstration aboard Coast Guard Cutter Healy in the Arctic ice field with cooperation from subject matter experts in partner federal agencies, DHS-sponsored university projects and scientific organizations. The simulation and demonstration were in support and alignment with the U.S. Coast Guard Arctic Strategy.


RDC and partner agency researchers joined the Healy’s crew during a recent deployment to the Beaufort and Chukchi seas as part of the Coast Guard’s support of the interagency Arctic Shield 2013 exercise. RDC personnel led the demonstration of several technologies for potential use in the Arctic with cooperation from Coast Guard Strike Teams (National, Gulf, Atlantic and Pacific); representatives from the Office of Research, Development, Test and Evaluation at Coast Guard Headquarters; Pacific Area; 17th District; and Maritime Safety and Security Team (MSST) San Francisco; as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI); the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement; University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF); and the Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Maritime, Island and Remote and Extreme Environment Security; along with international observers from Environment Canada and Sweden’s Coast Guard.

This joint technology evaluation was designed to assess the potential and operational capabilities of specific technologies to enrich the Coast Guard’s capability to respond to an oil spill in the icy waters of the Arctic. The RDC selected representative examples of technologies possessing the requisite qualities to enhance an Arctic oil spill response. This investigation was designed to evaluate all aspects of the deployment, operation and recovery phase of each technology and did not evaluate the performance of the specific technology demonstrated.

Equipment operated during the demonstration included: small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS), Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV), Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUV), emergency response management system, operational support remote video terminal, Vessel of Opportunity Skimmer System (VOSS) brushed skimmer with new hose technology and a Surface Wave Instrument Float with Tracking (SWIFT) buoy. These assets included two sUAS, one from NOAA and another from the UAF (provided by the Air Force Special Tactics Command); a VOSS operated by Coast Guard Strike Team members; an ROV from Coast Guard MSST San Francisco; a UUV from WHOI; and a SWIFT buoy operated by University of Washington.


This demonstration explored the potential capabilities and benefits that a wide variety of deployed technologies could provide during an oil spill response in the Arctic. Considerably more research is required to identify specific technologies that will enhance Coast Guard response capabilities. Data captured during the investigation have provided the RDC with sufficient information to conduct post-data reconstruction and analysis. The after action analysis remains under development, and the RDC plans to incorporate these analyses into planning and preparations for next year’s planned Arctic Shield exercises.