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Independent Review of the M/V Marathassa Fuel Oil Spill Environmental Response Operation
Chapter 4 - Conclusion and Summary of recommendations

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In conclusion, this was an operational discharge of persistent fuel oil with very high consequences. While it is certainly positive that Canada has a robust oil spill response regime, the Canadian Coast Guard and its partners rarely respond to real life events due to the infrequency of persistent oil spill events in Canadian waters. The Canadian Coast Guard and its oil spill response partners need to actively engage in the development of localized area response plans. They also need to engage in exercises, both large and small, to test the system and to establish and maintain relationships. Exercising the area response plans and the Incident Command System are instrumental for a successful outcome when the real event occurs.

The M/V Marathassa spill allowed for many learning opportunities and the potential to identify areas for improvement in oil spill response which will benefit Canadians in the longer term. The following recommendations are therefore submitted for consideration:

  1. The National Incident Notification Procedure criteria and the exemptions for verbal notification should be reviewed to ensure all significant incidents receive verbal notification 24/7 to the senior national leadership of the Canadian Coast Guard.
  2. The Canadian Coast Guard, Emergency Management British Columbia and British Columbia Ministry of Environment should jointly review alerting and notification procedures to promote a common understanding and approach between the organizations when assessing and notifying regarding marine pollution incidents.
  3. The Canadian Coast Guard and Port Metro Vancouver should review the Letter of Understanding to clarify their respective roles and responsibilities within the port waters.
  4. Port Metro Vancouver should continue to collect information regarding reports of marine pollution under its area of responsibility and to request aerial surveillance to support the Canadian Coast Guard’s effective assessment of marine pollution incidents.
  5. The Canadian Coast Guard should ensure that Port Metro Vancouver has the appropriate information, training and standards to assist their staff in performing assessments.
  6. The Canadian Coast Guard should ensure that all Environmental Response staff review the appropriate agreements to ensure clear communications between the Canadian Coast Guard Duty Officer and Port Metro Vancouver and to review roles and responsibilities in oil spill response within the boundaries of Port Metro Vancouver.
  7. The Canadian Coast Guard should review the assessment procedures with staff and ensure they are empowered and supported to take a precautionary approach when assessing reported spills, even if it means from time to time the system will overreact.
  8. The Canadian Coast Guard should continue to implement the Area Response Planning pilot project, and consider expediting elements of the planning process for the southern portion of British Columbia pilot area. This plan should be regularly exercised.
  9. The Canadian Coast Guard should ensure it has adequate staff to respond to a major marine pollution incident in any part of its region at any given time. This may involve planning and acquiring support from a national team of trained and capable responders in spill response, emergency management, and support staff, including operational communications.
  10. The Canadian Coast Guard should continue implementing the Incident Command System and exercising with all partners, including First Nations, provincial and municipal partners, and non-governmental organizations as part of the plan.
  11. The Canadian Coast Guard should develop simplified quick reference tools for Incident Command Post members who are not familiar with the roles and responsibilities of Incident Command positions.
  12. The Canadian Coast Guard should ensure roles are rapidly assigned and explained to members who join the Incident Command Post.
  13. The Canadian Coast Guard should consider utilizing the Emergency Operations Centre concept at the regional level to establish a separate strategic management location from the operational Incident Command Post.
  14. The Canadian Coast Guard should consider pre-established Incident Command Post locations under a variety of standardized scenarios, to be included in an area response plan.
  15. The Canadian Coast Guard should consider utilizing an Incident Command System coach during incidents until all staff members are fully trained.
  16. Environment Canada should review its trigger criteria for on-site presence in an incident, in collaboration with the Canadian Coast Guard, particularly in complex incidents.
  17. Environment Canada should continue to be a leader in the Environmental Unit, providing sound and independent environmental and scientific advice during an oil spill incident.
  18. Environment Canada and other levels of government should review appropriate shoreline clean-up standards that can be used for oil spill response.
  19. Environment Canada, in collaboration with other levels of government should ensure that the appropriate tools and resources are available for use by the Environmental Unit during an oil spill incident, such as checklists for monitoring, situation maps, sampling protocols and SCAT standards.
  20. The Canadian Coast Guard should discuss with partners the best platform for a common operating picture for sharing spill and environmental data.
  21. The Canadian Coast Guard should ensure accurate information is released by Unified Command and/or Incident Command as soon as possible regarding the type, quantity, and fate and effects of a pollutant, including any information that is related to public health concerns.
  22. The Canadian Coast Guard should develop an accelerated regional approval process with respect to factual operational information during an incident, similar to the current procedures for sharing information in Search and Rescue incidents.
  23. The Canadian Coast Guard should ensure the organization has sufficiently trained human resources and tools to manage Unified Command communications.
  24. The Canadian Coast Guard, with the Government of Canada IT, should develop a rapidly deployable communications and IT system that facilitates a more effective and timely electronic interface with partner agencies during an incident.
  25. The Canadian Coast Guard should consider establishing incident specific communication tools, such as a website and phone number, for significant incidents.
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