There are a number of European institutions that deal with, or have dealt with various aspects of oil spill response and preparedness. European Member States (and some neighbouring countries such as Norway, Iceland and candidate Member States) cooperate at the European level under different umbrellas, the most important of which are the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and DG Echo's Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC). The former Management Committee of Marine Pollution (MCMP) was instrumental in the early stages of oil spill preparedness actions prior to the programme ending in 2006.
The European Commission previously ran a programme for cooperation in the field of marine pollution, based on the Community framework for cooperation in the field of accidental or deliberate Marine Pollution, which ended in 2006. Actions under the Community framework were managed at the time by the Civil Protection Unit of DG Environment, supported by the Management Committee for Marine Pollution (MCMP).
MCMP was composed of high-level government experts from the coastal European Member States, Norway and Iceland to act as an interface between the Commission and national administrations. Their role was to exchange views, express opinion on actions to be taken and define current and future priorities for European level actions in marine pollution preparedness and response.
MCMP had a serious interest in oiled wildlife response and planning, and financed several projects which support the Community Framework, including the project that resulted in the initial creation of this website and several workshops on different aspects of oiled wildlife response. As the Community Framework and MCMP are no longer in operation, a portion of their tasks have been handed over to the European Maritime Safety Agency, in so far as these tasks fall within EMSA’s mandate of at-sea pollution preparedness and response.
European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA)
The overarching mission of the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) is to ensure safe, secure and clean transport by ships in European waters. EMSA provides technical and scientific assistance to the European Commission and Member States in the proper development and implementation of EU legislation on maritime safety, pollution by ships and security on-board ships.
Within that mission, the 2004 Action Plan for Pollution Preparedness and Response tasks EMSA with actions, in co-operation with Member States, to strengthen the current pollution preparedness and response framework in Europe. To this end, EMSA manages a network of stand-by oil recovery vessels for European sea areas, which can be mobilised on request, when the scale of a pollution incident is beyond that of the resources available in the affected country.
EMSA also provides a satellite based monitoring system for marine oil spill detection and surveillance in European waters (CleanSeaNet) The service provides oil spill alerts to Member States, and rapid delivery of available satellite images and oil slick position.
EMSA undertakes preparedness and response activities with Member States and Regional Agreements through a Consultative Technical Group for Marine Pollution Preparedness & Response (CTG MPPR), to disseminate best practices and information in this field and work on projects of common interest. For example, the 2009 joint EMSA-DG Environment workshop on co-ordinated at-sea and shoreline response where oiled wildlife response was included in the programme.
Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC)
The Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC), previously managed by DG Environment, is now operated by the Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (DG Echo) of the European Commission. The ERCC is the operational heart of the European Community Mechanism for Civil Protection. Available on a 24/7 basis, it provides countries access to the Community’s civil protection platform in case of disasters such as pollution incidents, forest fires, earthquakes, tsunamis etc. Any country affected by a major disaster – inside or outside the EU – can request assistance through the ERCC.
During emergencies the ERCC plays three important roles: serving as a communications hub for the exchange of requests and offers of assistance; providing information on civil protection preparedness and response to participating states, as well as a wider audience of interested stakeholders; and supporting co-ordination of the provision of European assistance.
National oiled wildlife response planning
An increasing number of European coastal states are developing national oiled wildlife response plans. An overview of plans that are in place or discussions that are currently taking place is provided here.
Regional oiled wildlife response planning
Regional oiled wildlife response planning is also under development within the regional conventions for protection of European seas from pollution, notably within HELCOM Response for the Baltic Sea and the Bonn Agreement for the North Sea. These regional activities provide a stronger policy framework for European countries to develop and strengthen their arrangements for dealing with oiled wildlife incidents. An overview of the relevant regional discussions is provided here.