Report on the 2000 review of the National Plan
Since 1973, Australia has had in place a national strategy to respond to marine oil spills. In 1998, this strategy was extended to chemical spills with the addition of a contingency plan known as Chemplan, and the overall arrangements are now known as the National Plan to Combat Pollution of the Sea by Oil and Other Noxious and Hazardous Substances (the National Plan). The objectives of the National Plan are based on Australia’s obligations as a signatory to the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation 1990 and a responsibility to protect natural and artificial (man made) environments from the adverse effects of oil pollution and minimise those effects where protection is not possible. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is the managing agency of the National Plan, working together with the States and Northern Territory governments, other Commonwealth agencies, ports, and the shipping, oil and exploration industries, to maximise Australia’s marine pollution response capability.
The National Plan was last comprehensively reviewed in 1993. Since then it has been generally agreed that the operational aspects of the Plan have worked well and met the expectations of all parties.
However, during 1998 a number of issues were raised about the operation of the Plan. A report by Thompson Clarke Shipping commissioned by the National Plan Advisory Committee (NPAC) raised a number of issues about the role of port authorities in the National Plan arrangements, particularly in view of the privatisation and corporatisation of ports in a number of jurisdictions. Several jurisdictions also raised questions about the basis on which the National Plan is funded, specifically the relative financial contributions of the parties and the adequacy of the total funding. There were also questions raised about the adequacy of the policy and decision-making forums and the need for a formal agreement between the Government parties to the National Plan.
In view of the significance of these issues, the Australian Transport Council (ATC) agreed that the National Plan should be reviewed to address these emerging issues and any others relating to the effective and efficient operation of the National Plan. In March 1999 a Steering Committee was formed to manage the review on behalf of ATC. The Steering Committee consisted of the States/NT and Commonwealth, the Association of Australian Ports and Marine Authorities, the Australian Institute of Petroleum, the Australian Shipping Federation, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, with an independent Chair.
Two consultancy projects were commissioned as part of this Review:
- A risk assessment to determine the likely risk profile around the coast of pollution of the sea by discharges of oil or chemicals from ships
- An analysis of the management arrangements of the National Plan, particularly with regard to the roles of the parties including port operators, the financial contributions of the parties and the adequacy of policy and decision making forums.