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Preparedness against acute pollution

Anyone engaged in activities which may result in acute pollution shall provide the necessary emergency response system to prevent, detect, stop, remove and limit the impact of the pollution. The emergency response system shall be in reasonable proportion to the probability of acute pollution and the extent of the damage and environmental impact that may arise.

The objective of such an emergency response system is to preserve life, and to protect public health, the environment and commercial interests. “Polluter pays” is an established principle within the Pollution Control Act, implying that polluters pay for their own preparedness (except the shipping industry) and for the implementation of damage containment measures concerning their own activities.

Furthermore, the polluter bears the liability for cleanup and compensation whenever damage to the environment or property occurs.

Private preparedness

About 70 major land-based industries, including refineries and coastal tank facilities, are subject to specific preparedness requirements issued by the Norwegian Climate and Pollution Agency and have established their own contingency plans.

The oil companies operating offshore are subject to preparedness requirements following the HSE regulations for petroleum related activities.

For petroleum activities on the Norwegian continental shelf, the individual operating companies are responsible for preparedness and response.

All operating companies are members of NOFO (Norwegian Clean Seas Organisation). NOFO places equipment and technical staff at the afflicted companies’ disposal. It is the duty of all companies to have contingency plans and to respond in the event of acute pollution resulting

Public preparedness

Municipal preparedness

It is the duty of local authorities to maintain preparedness and respond to minor instances of acute pollution within the municipality. This applies to incidents that are not covered by private preparedness and when the polluter is unknown or unable to respond. Such incidents include: overturned tank trucks, leakage from buried tanks and oil spills of unknown origin (“mystery spills”).

Cooperation between local authorities is ensured through 34 so called IUAs, which are inter-municipal emergency response committees covering the entire country.

Government preparedness

The Norwegian Coastal Administration has a duty on behalf of the government to maintain preparedness and respond to major instancesof acute pollution which is not covered by private or municipal contingency plans. Mainly this consists of response to oil spills from ships and shipwrecks or unknown sources. If the responsible polluter is incapable of taking action, the Norwegian Coastal Administration can take on responsibility for the operation.

The Coastal Administration also ensures that vessels that present an acute pollution risk are appropriately dealt with (e.g., emergency towing, off-loading or beaching of vessels in distress). In such situations, contingency personnel from the Norwegian Maritime Directorate will assist the Norwegian Coastal Administration, providing advice and guidance.

The Coastal Administration also works closely with the Norwegian Armed Forces, particularly the Coast Guard, when there is danger of acute pollution from vessels The Norwegian Coastal Administration can mobilize resources from private and municipal emergency response systems for a major government response operation. Through international agreements, international assistance can also be requested.

Facts

Reporting acute pollution incidents

  • Anyone who discovers acute pollution is obliged to notify the emergency phone number 110. Vessels at sea report to the nearest coastal radio station or one of the Joint Rescue Coordination Centres (HRS), which also act as Norway’s Maritime Assistance Service (MAS). Enterprises with specific contingency plans have their own notification routines. There are also other procedures, e.g. for notifications issued by aircraft.
  • Notifications received by the 110-central or a coastal radio are relayed to the Norwegian Coastal Administration’s Department for Emergency Response.
  • The department’s on-duty personnel will monitor the situation, usually in cooperation with a VTS station if a vessel is involved. The on-duty staff can then place requirements on the polluter, give advice or take action, depending on the nature of the incident. Annually, 1300-1400 notifications of (potentially) acute pollution require follow-up. In case of accidents involving chemicals, the Department for Emergency Response may also utilise a 24/7 national and pan European counselling service established by the industry itself.
  • The Department for Emergency Response applies a variety of decision-making and support tools to ensure the quality of their emergency stand-by and response services.

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