Oil spill response strategy released

Safe Seas Clean Seas Issue 47, December 2014 - January 2015

The New Zealand Marine Oil Spill Response Strategy 2015–2019 was released in November. It followed a comprehensive review involving industry, regional councils, overseas agencies, iwi and the public.

The strategy is a high-level document that sets out the overarching framework for how MNZ and our oil spill response partners will respond to a marine oil spill of any size.

The Maritime Transport Act requires the Director of MNZ to regularly review the strategy, with the last review carried out in 2006. MNZ’s Director, Keith Manch, said this review was begun in 2011 but was put on hold as a result of the Rena grounding and ensuing response.

“We decided we would wait until there was a full review of the Rena response, so lessons from that could be incorporated into the new strategy. The strategy also reflects the latest international developments and changes in oil spill response,” said Keith.

He said the aim of the strategy is to ensure New Zealand has an efficient, effective, resilient and fit-for-purpose marine oil spill response system.

“This strategy is the fourth edition. It is more directive than previous editions and has a stronger focus on readiness for and response to significant oil spills. The work done on developing this strategy will stand us in good stead to build on our capacity over the next few years,” said Keith.

MNZ is now working on a capability plan that will set out the requirements (people, equipment, training, exercise and organisation) needed to maintain and enhance the oil spill response system.

The plan will incorporate and advance the capability building and capital enhancement initiatives already underway in the wake of the Rena incident and the recent upturn in offshore oil and gas activities.

“Major oil spills are extremely rare, but have the potential to cause widespread environmental damage and affect many people. In a significant oil spill response, it is highly likely specialist expertise, resources, and equipment from external suppliers within and outside New Zealand will be used, in addition to those of MNZ, the regional council(s) and the operator,” said Keith.

Keith said the oil strategy was also a core component of MNZ’s broader maritime incident response strategy, which looks at all aspects of an actual or potential incident.

“A complex maritime incident might involve a search and rescue component, oil spill response, a salvage operation, and the recovery of non-oil pollutants, such as cargo from a ship. Since the Rena response, we have developed a broader overall maritime incident response strategy that will help MNZ deal with all these aspects.

“The oil spill response strategy must be able to ‘stand alone’ as the response strategy for an oil spill, but also integrate with a much broader maritime incident response framework. I am confident this new, updated strategy achieves this.”

New Zealand’s marine oil spill response system

  • Most marine oil spills in New Zealand waters are small in volume, so are easily managed and have low impact.
  • However, New Zealand also needs to be ready to respond to significant spills, such as the Rena incident, which are very low probability events but have high impact.
  • The marine oil spill response system, therefore, needs to be flexible and able to mount a response to all spills in New Zealand waters.
  • New Zealand has a tiered response system, with responsibility for responding to the spill dependent on the scale of response required. Tier 1 oil spills are responded to and resolved by the operator, Tier 2 by the regional council, and Tier 3 (or national-level spills) by MNZ.
  • New Zealand has many partners (locally and internationally) that contribute to New Zealand’s capability to respond to a significant marine oil spill.
  • The system needs to reflect global best practice, but be carefully adapted to New Zealand’s marine and maritime environments.
  • This is challenging, as New Zealand’s marine waters are extensive and often remote, and the maritime industry is complex and dynamic, with rapidly changing technology, multiple stakeholders and diverse views.

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