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Independent Review of the M/V Marathassa Fuel Oil Spill Environmental Response Operation
Chapter 2 - Oil spill response phases

Table of Content

2.1 Notification

Part 3 of the Vessel Pollution Dangerous Chemicals Regulations requires the Master of the vessel to report pollution or threats of pollution. For vessels, these reports must be made in accordance with the Guidelines for Reporting Incidents Involving Dangerous Goods, Harmful Substances and/or Marine PollutantsFootnote 19

Incidents may be reported by contacting a Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) Marine Communication Traffic Services (MCTS) Centre through a toll free pollution line or by calling the very high frequency Channel 12. When calling in a spill report, the caller will/may be asked to provide information.

Upon receipt of a spill report, the MCTS Officer is responsible for informing the necessary parties and lead agencies. This will be completed verbally and through email notification in the form of a pollution report.

Duty Officers must be aware of other incidents within their functional area of responsibility including both Environmental Response (ER) and Search and Rescue (SAR) activities. SAR incidents can be deemed as potential pollution incidents depending on the nature of the case. The transition from SAR to ER should be seamless, especially if Pollution Response Officer (PRO) powers are exercised to aid in the prevention of a pollution incident during a SAR case.

Once the assessment phase has been completed by the Duty Officer, the appropriate notification shall be made. If deemed to be a spill of “significance/importance” the Duty Officer will contact the Superintendent, Environmental Response, to provide the detailed assessment of the incident. The Superintendent will then in turn notify the Regional Director, CCG Programs, and the regional Assistant Commissioner (AC). The AC will then inform National Headquarters (NHQ) verbally, if required. Additionally, the established procedure for incident reporting will be followed. A National Incident Notification Procedure (NINP) shall accompany verbal notification if the requirements for a NINP have been met.

Duty Officers are also responsible for notifying/consulting other lead government agencies such as Environment Canada (EC), Transport Canada (TC) and provincial Ministries of Environment.

The regional communications branch must be alerted of potential media enquiries relating to marine incidents. This will allow communications officers the opportunity to develop media lines and effectively manage the flow of information and ensure that accurate information is released to the public. As well, approval for media releases typically requires NHQ approval.

2.2 Assessment

Assessment is a critical phase of an oil spill; it identifies the foundation and potential future actions required at the beginning of the spill. The most important components of the assessment are the identification of the source and the action to secure the source and stop it from entering the marine environment. If the information gathering and the assessment are solid, detailed and accurate, the Duty Officer will identify the source, which will determine the role of the CCG as On-Scene Commander (OSC) or Federal Monitoring Officer (FMO). If the decision is made to respond, a rapid response is critical to effectively manage the oil spill and limit the effects to the marine environment. If the decision is to monitor the spill, the CCG will require the tools to effectively monitor the spill movement and the polluter’s response.

The skill set, competence and experience of the individual or individuals to conduct an effective assessment are essential. This comes not only from a solid training regime but from years of experience in responding and monitoring marine oil spills. To do so, a Duty Officer must have a detailed understanding of section 180 of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 which outlines the CCG’s responsibilities in oil spill response, and section 175, which outlines the powers of the Pollution Response Officer (PRO).Footnote 20

If the Duty Officer conducting the spill assessment is not able to conduct an effective assessment, poor decisions in the early stages of an oil spill can have adverse effects on the overall response. The individual must also understand any Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) that are in place and must maintain contact with other government agencies, to effectively communicate the information gathered during the assessment phase.

2.3 Activation

During the assessment phase, the Duty Officer, in consultation with the Superintendent ER, will determine if a response is necessary. Under the authority of the Superintendent ER, the Duty Officer will activate an operational response. An operational response can consist of simple actions to very complex response requirements.

Upon activation, the CCG will maintain the role of OSC, FMO or Resource Agency as determined by the operation. Initial response activities can be completed as per regional and area response plans. These plans are developed to provide responders with initial response priorities based on pre-planned scenarios. The plans could include examples of contextual information, including, among others, location of water intakes, aquaculture sites, local fisheries, resources at risks, sensitivities, local stakeholder lists, notification lists, and MOUs.

Activation of the ICS (formally Response Management System) is required to aid responders in an effective and efficient management of a response. If the CCG assumes the role of OSC, it becomes responsible for managing the spill and must provide resource/personnel equipment to meet the demands of the incident.

This may also require the activation of the National Response Team (NRT) to support the local response depending on the complexity, personnel needs and length of the incident. The NRT may also be used to fill regional personnel gaps if other personnel are responding to marine spills in the region. This also applies to the federal monitoring posture during a prolonged incident.

2.4 Response

The CCG is the lead government agency in relation to ship-source or mystery-source pollution incidents in the marine environment.

The response to a spill is determined based on several factors. The CCG will assume the role of OSC if the polluter is deemed to be unwilling to respond, unable to respond, or if the polluter is unknown, which is termed a mystery spill. In other situations, as FMO, the CCG will monitor the clean-up efforts of the polluter.

Commonly, once a polluter has been identified, the CCG will advise the polluter of its responsibilities. If satisfied with the polluter’s intentions, the CCG will assume the role of FMO. Until such a time that the polluter has assumed responsibility, the CCG maintains the lead for managing the spill response. The CCG is at all times responsible for ensuring an appropriate response regardless of the actions of others.

The NRT is comprised of human and equipment resources related to the ER Program. The CCG has a wide selection of personnel and equipment across the country that can be called upon to assist as required during a response. The NRT is activated through the National Coordination Centre (NCC) in NHQ. The NRT will normally be activated once capabilities of local resources become overwhelmed or the complexity of an incident dictates additional resources.

If the CCG responds to a marine pollution incident, there are either the CCG or industry resources required to ensure a safe, effective and efficient response. Resources would include trained and competent response staff and response equipment maintained and ready to respond. In terms of response equipment, containment boom and a selection of skimmers to recover pollution are commonly used tools. In addition, pollution response vessels must be on standby with a certified crew trained in spill response and small craft operations.

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