Report on the 2012 review of the National Plan
The 2011/12 Review of Australia’s National Plan to Combat Pollution of the Sea by Oil and Other Hazardous and Noxious Substances (the National Plan) and the National Maritime Emergency Response Arrangements (NMERA) represented a unique and timely opportunity to closely examine Australia’s capacity and ability to respond to maritime casualties and pollution incidents. Not only were both the National Plan and NMERA scheduled for review, but a series of incidents in recent years, namely the Pacific Adventurer and Montara incidents in 2009, were the most comprehensive challenges faced by the National Plan in its 40 year history. The lessons learnt from these incidents covered all aspects of incident response, from weeks of extensive foreshore clean-up close to one of Australia’s largest cities to operating in extremely remote areas of open water.
This Report outlines the outcomes of the Review as agreed by the National Plan Management Committee (NPMC) at its 15th meeting in July 2012. The outcomes draw from the two projects undertaken during the Review, and comments from more than 90 Australian and international stakeholders that were contacted during the process, including representatives from:
- relevant Commonwealth, State and Northern Territory (NT) Government authorities
- the shipping industry
- the offshore petroleum industry
- port authorities and harbour masters
- emergency towage/salvage contractors
- oil spill response service providers
- wildlife response agencies and associated service providers.
The Review found that despite the many challenges facing the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) and the other public and private organisations involved in spill preparedness and response, the National Plan and NMERA have served Australia well over the last ten years. Nevertheless, concerns regarding the current and future management and implementation of the National Plan and NMERA were raised, and areas for improvement identified.
Key outcomes from the Review, as agreed by NPMC , include a number of fundamental changes to the National Plan and NMERA. On the ground, the National Plan and NMERA will be better integrated. This will be assisted by combining them into a single document supported by a single Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) that will:
- provide clearer linkages to Australia’s obligations as a signatory to the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation 1990 (OPRC Convention) and its 2000 Protocol dealing with Hazardous and Noxious Substances (OPRC-HNS Protocol)
- be more closely aligned to Commonwealth and State/NT emergency management arrangements
- a new governance structure oversighted by the National Plan Strategic Coordination Committee (NPSCC ) with membership from the Commonwealth/State/NT Governments
- a National Plan Strategic Industry Advisory Forum (NPSIAF) responsible for providing industry focused advice on strategic issues
- a new committee to provide an increased focus on preparing for and managing incidents in Commonwealth waters.
The Det Norske Veritas Final Report: Assessment of the Risk of Pollution from Marine Oil Spills in Australian Ports and Waters (DNV Risk Assessment)1 identified very high maritime risk areas adjacent to and offshore from both Dampier and Townsville. A $25 million program of equipment replacement and refurbishment is well under way and includes replenishment and replacement of the two National Plan equipment stockpiles at these locations. New standards will be developed for equipment storage and maintenance in all nine of the equipment stockpiles.
To assist in the implementation of competency based training, AMSA will provide resources to assist the States/NT to:
- align their training with the AMSA Registered Training Organisation (RTO)
- adapt existing training to a Competency Based Training (CBT) framework, with a view to establishing nationally consistent training outcomes.
Other outcomes as agreed by NPMC include:
- development of succession plans to expand personnel experience across all levels of response
- national exercises to be rotated between jurisdictions and held more frequently
- enhancements to the Oil Spill Response Atlas and cost recovery arrangements
- development of an incident management framework for salvage incidents
- development of formal arrangements with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) to provide scientific advisory services to the National Plan
- development of a national oiled wildlife capability and upgraded oiled wildlife resources within the National Plan equipment stockpiles.
The National Plan Management Committee believes that the implementation of these changes will ensure Australia’s capability to respond to maritime casualties and pollution incidents will remain effective in the future. NPMC has indicated that the successful implementation of the Review’s outcomes will involve considerable effort by AMSA and all the National Plan/NMERA stakeholders over the next 12-18 months. This will remain a key challenge for all concerned.