Responding to oil spills
The International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation (OPRC), which was adopted in November 1990, is designed to help Governments combat major oil pollution incidents. The Convention became international law in May 1995.
The Convention is designed to facilitate international co-operation and mutual assistance in preparing for and responding to a major oil pollution incident and to encourage States to develop and maintain an adequate capability to deal with oil pollution emergencies.
In 2000, IMO adopted the Protocol on Preparedness, Response and Co-operation to pollution Incidents by Hazardous and Noxious Substances, 2000 (HNS Protocol) which follows the principles of the OPRC Convention for hazardous and noxious substances other than oil.
IMO, in co-operation with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), has established a centre in Malta to co-ordinate anti-pollution activities in the Mediterranean (REMPEC)
The Regional Marine Pollution Emergency, Information and Training Center for the Wider Caribbean Region (RAC/REMPEITC-Caribe) is an IMO office which assists the countries in the region in preventing, preparing for and responding to major pollution incidents
IMO also participates in the GEF/UNDP/IMO Regional Programme on Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA).
Article 8 of the OPRC Convention calls on governments and IMO to play an active role in the promotion of R&D relating to the enhancement of the state-of-the-art of pollution preparedness and response through the exchange of information.
The first and second
International R&D Fora on oil spill response issues were held in McLean
(USA, 1992) and London (1995). The third was held in Brest, France, in 2002
- Third R&D Forum on High
Density Oil Spill Response.
The Oil Pollution Manual provides a useful guide for governments of developing countries and for those persons directly associated with the sea transportation and transfer of oil. The manual is divided into five sections:
Section I - Prevention
Section II - Contingency Planning - Provides guidance to governments, particularly those of developing countries, on ways and means of establishing a response organization and preparing contingency plans
III – Salvage– This section is intended to
be used in conjunction with the national contingency plan. The guidance
helps Administrations and officials involved with oil pollution casualties to
mitigate the effects of such accidents, whether there is spillage from a tanker
or the release of bunkers from dry cargo vessels or passenger vessels.
Section V - Administrative Aspects of Oil Pollution Response This section is intended to provide the reader, in particular on-scene commanders, lead agencies and others involved in the management of oil pollution response, with an appreciation of the various interests involved in an oil pollution emergency and its aftermath, as well as a general review of the international legal and voluntary industry regimes governing limitation of liability and compensation for oil pollution damage. It is not intended to provide an authorized or definitive commentary on the legal relationships between the various entities involved in an oil pollution emergency or an interpretation of relevant international conventions.
Section VI - Guidelines for Sampling and Identification of Oil Spills - The guidelines are intended to provide guidance to governments, including those of developing countries, on the techniques, equipment and strategies for sampling oil to identify unknown sources of spilled oil. The emphasis is on the details of the field work required to collect the samples.
The Guidelines provide up-to-date information on the use of oil spill dispersants. They are intended primarily for use by Member Governments and other oil spill responders and should be read with the Manual on Oil Pollution, section IV: Combating Oil Spills (IMO-569E). The present edition of these Guidelines supersedes the 1982 edition.
A first draft version
of the text was presented to the thirty-fifth session (March 1994) of IMO's
Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) by the Government of France,
acting through the Centre de documentation de recherche et d'expérimentations
sur les pollutions accidentelles des eaux (CEDRE). A workshop was subsequently
held in Brest (France). The resulting document was considered and approved at
the thirty-sixth session (October/November 1994) of the MEPC.