More than an oil spill clean up exercise

To ensure adequate oil spill preparedness, practice is also needed on the “invisible” parts of an oil spill response operation. Following the major exercise SCOPE 2017, the Norwegian Coastal Administration therefore arranged two exercises focusing on places of refuge for ships and claims management.

There was a great deal of interest in the Coastal Administration’s two tabletop exercises on the less visible parts of the oil spill preparedness. (Photo: the Norwegian Coastal Administration)

A ship collision causing significant pollution will initiate a number of processes and operations from governmental, municipal and private parties. Various factors can greatly affect the outcome both before, during and after the accident itself. Therefore, based on the scenario used in SCOPE 2017, two tabletop exercises were conducted in cooperation with the European Commission and EMSA (European Maritime Safety Agency).

Use of emergency ports (places of refuge for ships)

One exercise posed challenges related to the use of places of refuge for ships. This was the third exercise in an EU context, based on the use of guidelines on how authorities, the EU and other parties involved should cooperate in dealing with ship incidents where places of refuge for ships are needed. The guidelines contain practical descriptions on how to handle such incidents best, even if they occur on the open sea.

To make the exercise as realistic as possible, representatives from marine insurance, class societies and salvage companies participated in the exercise. In playing their respective roles, they contributed to the efficient and smooth handling of the incident. In addition to representatives from the maritime industry, country representatives from all over the EU participated in the exercise, as well as delegates from the EU Commission and EMSA.

Responsibilities, collateral and claims management

The theme of the second exercise focussed on the need to clarify who is responsible for the accident and to ensure that the authorities could claim back their operational expenses. The tabletop exercise was organized in cooperation with members of an EMSA working group.

In total, there were 44 representatives from various authorities responsible for the prevention of  acute pollution at sea in Europe, as well as representatives of EMSA, the oil disaster fund IOPC Funds and The International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF).

During both exercises, the working groups identified lessons learned and areas of improvements, which will be addressed going forward. The Coastal Administration will work on and coordinate the matters, both nationally and internationally.


Places of refuge for ships. A port used when the weather is too dangerous for vessels, cargo and crew, when illness makes it necessary to bring people to shore, when supplies are exhausted, or when damage cannot be repaired on board.

Government action and claims managament: The Norwegian Coastal Administration may, if necessary, take measures on behalf of the responsible polluter, and demand reimbursement for the costs incurred during an operation. “The polluter pays” is an internationally recognized principle.

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