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Monday, July 23, 2018

CALIFORNIA UNANNOUNCED OIL SPILL DRILL PROGRAMME

At a recent public meeting in California, the Office of Oil Spill Prevention & Response (OSPR) received uniform comments from the industry criticising a new oil spill drill programme duplicating the Federal drill programme, with questionable effectiveness and high costs to a few players randomly selected to participate. INTERTANKO and others are taking action to address this issue.

California OSPR recently hosted a meeting in Sacramento, advertised to provide a forum for industry comment on a new unannounced oil spill drill programme of OSPR, directed at both tankships and non tankers. Over 100 persons attended who uniformly attacked the programme based on, among other things:

* Lack of need

* Potential port delays

* Faulty guidelines resulting in a high probability of failure

* Potentially high costs to be borne by the plan holder

* Apparent lack of Coast Guard support

There was no support whatsoever from the participants.

The draft guidelines that outline the programme which OSPR envisages for the 0-4 hour drill are as follows:

1/ OSPR will board a vessel (tanker or non tanker) and present a scenario to the Master for a drill intended to test the 0-3 hour response readiness of the OSRO.  The Master will be expected to make the notifications required in the plan:  the Qualified Individual, the Coast Guard National Response Center and the State of California.

2/ The Master will be expected to comply with the provisions of the contingency plan, resulting in the deployment and operation of oil spill response equipment:

* Three thousand feet of boom.

* Skimming equipment sufficient to recover 2500 barrels per day. 

* Ancillary requirements will also be imposed (illustration of training, safety equipment and precautions, support systems, etc.).

3/ OSPR will advise the plan holder of the results.  Minor deficiencies must be corrected by the plan holder within 90 days to the satisfaction of OSPR.  Major deficiencies can result in the revocation of the plan.  Failure to participate is likely to result in plan revocation, affecting all ships named in the plan.  In the event OSPR finds that an OSRO is deficient, they will require, the plan holder, to correct the deficiency.

At the North America Panel (NAP) meeting on 19 March, the NAP recognized four  principle reasons why this programme other than the testing of notification procedures should be abandoned:

1/ OSROs are more than adequately drilled already and could identify no real need for these exercises other than for OSPR to demonstrate its authority and to respond to uninformed demands of other interests.

2/ While QIs presently have the full authority to obligate funds in the event of a spill, they have no legal obligation or authority from plan holders to do so in the event of a drill.  This can lead to misunderstandings and failure of the drill, not due to the inability of the plan holder or OSRO to perform adequately but due to an inherent deficiency in the way in which the drill is presented by OSPR.

3/ OSROs estimate that the cost per exercise could range between $10,000 and $15,000.  These costs would be borne by relatively few plans holders.  A more appropriate allocation of cost (provided a need for the programme can be rationalized) would be realized by OSROs passing back out of pocket expenditures to their entire client base.

4/ Despite claims to the contrary by OSPR, we envisage disruption to transfer operations and delay of ships.

While OSPR indicated that the final guidelines for the programme would appear in mid March with implementation by 1 April, no such guidelines have emerged.  INTERTANKO will continue for the most part to oppose this programme and keep members updated through the Weekly NEWS.

If you have any additional comments or questions, please contact Svein Ringbakken LegalandDocumentary@intertanko.com