West Coast Spill Response Study Volume 3-July 2013
World-Class Oil spill Prevention, Preparedness, Response & Recovery System,
July 19, 2013.
See the full PDF of this document as presented on the Ministry of the Environment website:
The British Columbia Ministry of Environment commissioned Nuka Research and Planning Group, LLC, to prepare this report.
The report is the third volume of the three-volume West Coast Spill Response Study.
Volume 1 described the current marine spill prevention and response system and
Volume 2 characterized vessel traffic on the coast and anticipated future changes.
Volume 3 describes one vision of the key features of a world – class system, provides examples where these features are implemented, and suggests opportunities to enhance the system on the west coast of Canada.This report presents a high-level overview of the features of a world-class system with recommendations and considerations for areas of enhancement. It does not constitute a risk assessment, nor does it seek to define what an acceptable level of risk is, or should be, for the people and resources of BC.
At the same time that all parties should strive for excellence in designing and implementing a marine spill prevention and response system, it is important to acknowledge that: (1) spills can still happen even with the best possible prevention and safety measures in place, and (2) even the best possible spill response system cannot guarantee that resources-at-risk will be protected from negative impacts if a spill occurs.
There will be many visions of what a “world-class” system entails, and almost as many ways to assess them.
In presenting a vision of a world class system, the authors reviewed existing standards and assessment tools, which typically focus on either spill prevention (vessel safety) or spill response (including planning and preparation for a spill response). Based on this review, we identified 11 key features of a world- class prevention and response system. These features are categorized into three groups: prevention (related to safe vessel operations and the availability of rescue and salvage resources), preparedness and response (including both planning and the personnel and resources needed to mount an effective response and recovery), and the overall system (including governance, the pursuit of continuous improvement, and funding).
Table 1, below, summarizes the 11 features used in this report.
For each of the 11 features and their associated sub -items, Nuka Research provides a brief description, one or more examples of where the feature is being implemented currently, and some general recommendations for related areas of improvement on the west coast of Canada. The recommendations are provided in the spirit of identifying opportunities for improvement. Ultimately, a shared vision must be created for what a future system will look like: it may be based on these features, other sets of recommendations developed for the west coast of Canada, or another comprehensive methodology for assessing a spill prevention and response regime.Regardless of the assessment tool, what is most important is to have a mechanism to continually evaluate, compare against either past performance or desired future outcomes, adjust the system, and ultimately progress toward some defined state
.A summary of the authors’ assessment of each of these features in BC is presented in Section 6.
Opportunities to enhance the current system
Driven primarily through federal mandates and port-specific planning, the west coast of Canada currently benefits from several marine oil spill prevention, preparedness, and response-related initiatives. In addition to holding this system up against the 11 elements listed above, the authors offer several overarching recommendations and considerations informed by the research conducted to develop this three-volume study:
A world-class system cannot be created overnight, but there are tangible improvements on the current system that can be started today. Achieving world-class distinction is not the result of a one-time success, but rather of a continuous effort. Even though improving the system will take time, this is not a reason to delay action on the items that can be implemented with relatively few resources such as improving transparency, developing geographic response plans, and starting to build a shared vision for the future.
- A shared vision and plan of action will rely on better transparency and information sharing, integration of efforts, and a layered approach that depends on local efforts as part of a larger whole. At the most basic level, a shared vision and goals cannot be achieved unless there is a shared understanding of the current system and how it should be enhanced. The authors benefited from the willingness of many agency officials to provide information about their efforts and programs, but many key documents and pieces of information were not accessible to us, or to the Ministry of Environment. There are opportunities to leverage the work of existing collaborative organizations like the Pacific States/British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force, and there may be benefits to creating new forums for coordination and communication.
- Self-awareness is key to creating a world-class system. While oil spills happen infrequently, the response phase often leaves the public with frustration and concern that “more could have been done” to prevent, prepare for, or respond to a spill. It is the shared responsibility of all key players to honestly examine both the strengths and weaknesses of existing systems, and to ensure that the public understands what can and cannot be done in the context of marine oil spills.In developing this study, we have reviewed and synthesized a great deal of information, and mined our collective experience as oil spill professionals, contingency planners, and data analysts. We were struck by the observation that most of the major progress that has been made in oil spill prevention, preparedness and response, in North America and worldwide, has been catalyzed by a major oil spill. The initiative of the BC government and the complementary initiatives of federal agencies to achieve improvements to western Canada’s marine oil spill regime ahead of a major incident is the critical first step along the path to a world-class system.