Offshore oil and gas exploration
Titleholders intending to engage in petroleum exploration or petroleum production must submit an environment plan to the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA).
We are an important stakeholder for all offshore exploration and exploitation activities between the Australian mainland and the limit of Australia’s exclusive economic zone.
We must be consulted by all offshore exploration and production titleholders. Our interests include:
- safety of navigation
- environmental safety and incident preparedness
- survey and certification.
Consultation with us
If you are intending to conduct offshore petroleum activities, significant commercial shipping traffic may be encountered in some offshore petroleum title areas. Before submitting an environment plan for acceptance or undertaking any offshore exploration or production activities, titleholders should email our nautical team. This consultation will allow us to assess an activity on its implications to the safety of marine navigation.
Safety of navigation
Shipping traffic data
We can provide historical shipping traffic data to assist duty holders to assess risk, and can offer guidance to help reduce the risk of collision.
At least 4 weeks’ notice is needed for all requests for data and requests must meet our data disclosure policy.
Requests for traffic density plots can be provided without cost. Requests requiring raw data or analysis will incur a fee.
All requests must include:
- a description of the area concerned, including bounding latitudes and longitudes
- the name of the drilling or survey activity
- specific permit block numbers (eg WA-28-L)
- the name of any vessels involved in the activity (including drilling vessels, survey vessels, pipe laying vessels and other support vessels)
- timeframe for the proposed activities (eg start and end dates or start date and duration of the activity).
Promulgation of maritime safety information
Maritime safety information (MSI) includes navigational and meteorological warnings and urgent safety related messages important to ships at sea. Many warnings are of a temporary nature, but others may remain in force for several weeks and may be superseded by notices to mariners (NTM).
Activities that can potentially impact upon navigation safety should have appropriate MSI promulgated before operations commence. Examples of these types of activities include:
- any form of drilling
- vessels conducting marine seismic surveys
- installation of offshore installations
- underwater surveys of offshore infrastructure
- pipe laying, cable laying or maintenance activities including work associated with telecommunication cables
- other activities that could potentially impact upon the safety of navigation.
If clarification is required on whether a planned activity requires the promulgation of MSI and/or NTM, contact us.
Marking and avoidance of man-made structures offshore
Adequately marking offshore man-made structures is vital for vessel safety and the safety of structures and their personnel.
Authorities may consider establishing exclusion or safety zone/s and/or areas to be avoided to prohibit or restrict vessels from entering the proximity of off-shore structures.
Details of such zones can be found on relevant nautical charts.
Authorities can also use MSI to circulate advice to shipping on installed aids to navigation.
This information can also be published as notice to mariners.
Preventing collisions—vessel or facility?
The Navigation Act does not apply where a vessel is classified as a 'facility'.
Generally speaking, a vessel will be a 'facility' when it is being used, or being prepared to be used, in petroleum activities.
Advice may be required from the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA).
Environmental safety and incident preparedness
Australia's National Plan for Maritime Environmental Emergencies (the National Plan) provides a national framework setting out how governments and industry will co-operate to respond to shipping casualties and marine pollution incidents.
Further guidance can be obtained from:
- the Advisory note for the offshore pretroleum industry with respect to oil spill contingency plans and environmental plans
- marine environment protection (contact us).
Survey and certification
We administer the Navigation Act 2012. The act generally applies to regulated Australian vessels and foreign vessels. This includes vessels engaged in offshore exploration and exploitation activities when the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 does not apply.
Elements of the safety case may rely upon ongoing certification.
Renewable energy and greenhouse gas storage
Our role in renewable energy and greenhouse gas storage is principally to provide advice to the Australian Government on sites to be explored and potential impacts on the safety of navigation.
Advisory note for the offshore petroleum industry on environmental plans and oil pollution emergency plans
NOPSEMA is the designated assessor for offshore environmental management of petroleum activities. Organisations engaged in offshore exploration or exploitation activities are required to have an environmental plan. More information about these environmental plans can been found in our advisory note.