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Chapman Freeborn

When speed counts: Providing a rapid air charter response to oil spills

Timely response to maritime and offshore incidents is critical and the air charter industry plays an important role in supporting organisations who work to contain the effects of disasters and control the risk to marine life and coastlines.

Global aircraft charter specialist Chapman Freeborn Airchartering is one such company that provides a rapid response service for moving passengers and cargo.

“We’ve had several situations where we’ve needed to needed to fly salvage specialists in the immediate aftermath of a blowout,” says Michael Grant, Group Oil & Gas Director at Chapman Freeborn.

“An aircraft like a Gulfstream G550 private jet is usually associated with flying executives to meetings, but it’s also the very fastest way of getting experts to the scene within hours of an incident.”

Around-the-clock availability is of high importance to clients as it allows teams to operate with minimal response time.

Whether the requirement is for a helicopter, private jet or a larger aircraft charter for 100 people – clients are always looking for a fast turnaround.

In terms of moving cargo, the requirements can also be hugely varied.

“It’s a truly global industry, so the required materials aren’t necessarily located in the region of the spill. For example, in the past we’ve had to move large quantities of rubber booms and dispersants out of China and Asia in response to incidents in North America and elsewhere. That’s not always the easiest thing unless you have local experts on the ground to expedite the process – gaining the necessary approvals from civil aviation authorities and customs officials,” says Grant.

There’s also no predicting when an oil spill will occur. Last Christmas, Chapman Freeborn’s US team was called into action to coordinate urgent charters from Miami to Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, to help tackle a series of oil spills on the La Brea shoreline.

Despite the request coming in during the festive break, a Boeing 767-200F aircraft was mobilised to transport oil spill clean-up equipment to the island country, which was facing significant damage to its south-west coast.

Grant comments: “Unlike some brokers who simply buy and sell the flight, we’re keenly focused on the value-added services. Offshore related cargo is often heavy and outsize by its nature so we are very used to coordinating arrangements for specialist equipment, including cranes and custom-built loading structures.”

Alongside 24-hour availability the other key factor in the aircraft charter industry is global coverage. Providing a logistical support role for sectors such as salvage and energy dictates that successful charter companies need to have local market knowledge.

In the last five years Chapman Freeborn has opened new offices in regions such as South America, Africa and Australasia – and the company now boasts over 30 locations worldwide.

Grant adds: “Global coverage in important because it allows us to provide clients with a continuity of service wherever a flight is happening in the world. One day a client might be looking to send a 50 ton piece to Singapore for a ship repair and the next it’s looking for a crew rotation flight to Sao Paulo. It helps to have local experts on the ground to ensure a smooth operation.”

For specific advice on oil spill response planning in the Asia-Pacific region, please contact Chapman Freeborn Australia. Email: Tel: +61 3 9374 5600

Header photo: A B767 Freighter used to deliver oil spill clean-up equipment to Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. Below: An AN-124 aircraft delivering skimmer boats to New Orleans following the Deepwater Horizon spill.


Below: Firefighting foam dispatched to North Africa to help tackle a blaze at a petrochemical complex.


Below: Oil spill equipment prepared at Qingdao Liuting International Airport.