The challenge

Trafigura transports combustible and hazardous raw materials in large volumes around the world. We recognise that despite our best efforts, risk can never be entirely eliminated. Should the worst happen, we have crisis management protocols based on international best practice. They include detailed plans for serious incidents.

But plans alone cannot replicate the stresses and strains of a real-life emergency. If accidents happen, our people need to be as ready as possible.


Our approach

We plan and execute emergency response exercises to give our people in-depth training and practical experience of different incident scenarios.

In July 2018, Trafigura joined forces with a specialist crisis management consultancy to develop realistic, multi-dimensional simulation exercises that help our people hone their response skills so they are sharp and ready at a moment’s notice.

A half-day exercise in July used a simulated oil spill to test our Geneva-based Emergency Response Team’s (ERT) crisis readiness in realistic conditions. Trafigura personnel at remote locations took on the roles of Regional Response Coordinator (RRC) and ship’s captain.

The ERT faced a complex, developing scenario with stark consequences for people and the environment. Trafigura’s reputation, its legal and financial status, its relationship with the impacted country’s government and its social licence to operate were also at stake.

In an accelerated sequence of events, a Trafigura-chartered fuel oil tanker gets into difficulty in very rough seas and difficult weather conditions before colliding with a naval vessel and becoming unsteerable. The spillage then pollutes coastal areas.

From its situation room the ERT plotted its responses. It followed Trafigura’s crisis management guide and corporate oil spill contingency plan. It mobilised spill containment specialists and coordinated local teams on the ground. As the timeline progressed, the focus shifted from stabilising a deteriorating situation to developing a coherent strategic response. A Crisis Management Team (CMT), comprising many of the same senior personnel, oversaw this phase of the operation.

Rehearsing worst-case scenarios strengthens our crisis preparedness. This exercise was part of a continuing programme of similar events. Stress-testing our plans and processes is revealing scope for improvement. Critically, these simulations help key managers develop the skills and coping mechanisms they will need should an actual incident occur.