EMSA to boost oil-spill recovery capacity

On 22 January 2005, the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) announced the commencement of its Action Plan for Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response. The implementation of the Action Plan, which was approved by EMSA’s administrative board at the end of October 2004, comes in response to the European Parliament’s demands for stricter European Union (EU) sanctions against illegal oil pollution. 

The European Parliament and Council recently allocated 17.5 million euros for 2005 activities, which sum is intended to establish contractual agreements with vessels that would be able to carry out the activities of an at-sea oil recovery vessel in the event of a large oil spill and a request for assistance from a MemberState. Furthermore, EMSA would like to utilise vessels that already have presence in the four regions (see below), so that they would carry out their normal activities as usual, but would be able to be called upon in the event of an oil-spill. 

The four geographic regions identified in EMSA’s Action Plan as being regions which require additional support during oil-spill recovery are: the Baltic Sea, the Western Approaches to the Channel, the Atlantic coast, and the Mediterranean. So far, EMSA has earmarked 4.5 million euros for the Baltic region, 2.5 million euros for the Western Approaches to the Channel, 6 million euros for the Atlantic coast, and 4.5 million euros for the Mediterranean Sea.

 The contracts, which will be established by EMSA, will cover the 3-year period between 2006 and 2008, along with an agreed upon fee structure. The prerequisites of the vessels, as outlined in the call for tender, include: 

  • the availability of a suitable and/or pre-fitted vessel or vessels in one of the four areas of high priority, that is able to be transformed rapidly into an oil recovery vessel. The vessel should have sufficient onboard storage capacity for recovered oil and have an appropriately trained crew capable of handling oil pollution response equipment and of working under an international command and control structure;
  • the participation in annual multinational at-sea spill response exercises (estimated at one week per year);
  • the responsibility to work as an oil recovery vessel in the case of an actual oil spill for a requesting state on the basis of a model contract with fixed fees;
  • the obligation to respond positively to all requests for assistance, and to respond to an oil spill regardless of the spill location.

Other requirements of the vessels include sweeping arms, pumps capable of handling heavy oil, skimmers, oil-water separation equipment and cargo heating equipment. 

It is expected that EMSA will conclude the procurement process in 2005. 

Click for details of EMSA’s Prior Information Notice  

Contact: Howard Snaith