UK: Defra Publishes Guidelines for Marine Oil and Chemical-Spill Response

A set of new guidelines to strengthen the response to oil and chemical spills at sea has been published recently.

The post-incident monitoring guidelines are a key output from the PREMIAM project (Pollution Response in Emergencies: Marine Impact Assessment and Monitoring) which was initiated in 2009.

A comprehensive document, the guidelines provide the principles upon which effective post-spill monitoring and impact assessment in UK waters will be based and is supported by 19 UK government partners. The guidelines cover a wide range of issues including:

*planning surveys

*sampling practices (including handling and storage)

*chemical analysis

*ecotoxicology

*ecological assessment

Chemical and oil spills in the marine environment remain a significant threat. While large spill incidents remain relatively rare, events such as the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico and, more recently, the grounded container ship Rena in New Zealand show the importance of effective response.

Rapid response, improved preparedness and effective post-incident monitoring and assessment are all key parts of an effective response and these guidelines and other outputs from the project will help to deliver that for the UK.

Cefas’ Mark Kirby, the PREMIAM project co-ordinator, says: “The publication of the guidelines marks an important step in our ability to mount effective and co-ordinated post-spill monitoring programmes.”

The UK has been no stranger to significant marine incidents, with large spills from the Sea Empress, Braer and MSC Napoli all requiring major post-spill monitoring operations.

Kirby continues: “The size and importance of the offshore oil and gas and shipping industries in the UK means that there is a need for continued vigilance and improvement of post-spill response and monitoring activities.

“The guidelines published came about because of excellent co-operation among a wide range of UK government departments and agencies, coupled with very positive feedback from both industry and conservation bodies during an extensive consultation period. Such combined effort means that the guidelines provide a credible and widely supported process for any UK response in future.”

The PREMIAM project is developing processes whereby expertise, equipment and facilities necessary for effective monitoring of oil and/or chemical spills are identified and engaged. The project also provides a mechanism through which the UK’s post-spill monitoring programme is co-ordinated and managed.

Subsea World News Staff , November 18, 2011;  Image: Defra

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