Several boats trailing boom, an underwater robot hooked to a rope and even an aerial drone worked to clean up a not-so-disastrous dog food spill in the Savannah River by downtown late Wednesday afternoon.

Though a few passing birds seemed happy about the dog food, the treat was meant to represent something much more harmful — spilled oil.

The demonstration during the three-day International Oil Spill Conference at the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center showcased a simulated response to a spill and how new technology could be used.

“Our theme for the conference is prevention, preparedness, response and restoration,” said Peter Velez of Peter Velez Engineering LLC of Houston, conference chairman.

People from all over the world attend the event, which is held every three years.

Given the amount of traffic that comes to the Port of Savannah, some of the technology showcased could have local implications, Velez said.

“If you have an accident and something happens, then you have to have equipment available — the equipment that works and also the personnel that’s trained to operate it immediately to respond,” he said.

A key part of the conference is bringing entrepreneurs and the government — especially the U.S. Coast Guard, which responds to oil spills — together.

“It enables our folks to join together with industry and the other agencies and NGOs to share best practices and talk about new ways of responding to oil spills, study old oil spills and lessons learned so we can keep making our responses more efficient and effective,” said Coast Guard Capt. Claudia Gelzer.

Gelzer, who works at the headquarters level, said about 100 Coast Guard members attended the event.

“We bring Coast Guard members from pretty much every unit throughout the nation ... to come here so they can get out of the field so they can listen to some of the scientists, some of the policymakers,” Gelzer said.

© 2014 the Savannah Morning News (Savannah, Ga.)