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IOSC Technical Reports Collection

General Description:

Beginning in 1995, the IOSC Executive Steering Committee commissioned white papers from experienced oil spill practitioners and researchers to address, and summarize the state of the art, emerging and/or important issues of keen interest to the international oil spill community. These papers were presented during International Oil Spill Conference plenary sessions to frame discussion and stimulate research and policy. Published as part of the Proceedings for that year, these white papers represent definitive summaries of the evolution of the management, science, technology, politics and practice of oil spill preparedness and response, both in the US and worldwide. The white papers are a fundamental starting point for researchers, scientists, students, politicians, and citizens with a serious interest in understanding some of the complex issues associated with marine oil spill preparedness, response, and recovery.

Technical Report IOSC-001

Prepared by:
Ann Hayward Walker, Donald L. Ducey, Jr., and Stephen J. Lacey, Scientific and Environmental Associates, Incorporated
John R. Harrald, George Washington University, School of Engineering and Applied Science

The challenge for oil spill response professionals is to develop a process during pre-spill planning that enables a responder to incorporate the positive aspects of both closed and open management systems. By building a system that has the potential for operational efficiency offered by closed systems and the adaptability of open systems, the capability to successfully manage the full range oil spill response operations can be developed. Developing and implementing an effective Response Management System is difficult due to the technological, political, economic and socio-cultural differences between organizations and nations. It can best be accomplished during the preparedness process by reaching detailed organizational agreements among members of the response community on how organizations will respond together, and then reinforcing and/or modifying those agreements at the outset of a response. This paper is intended to stimulate thoughtful discussion within the spill response community on how to better address these problems associated with managing response operations.

Technical Report IOSC-002

Prepared by:
Gary S. Mauseth, Project Manager/Primary Author
Don A. Kane, Co-Author
Beak Consultants Incorporated

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980 and the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) of 1990 confirmed that appointed federal, state, and tribal trustees will seek to recover natural resource damages in the event of discharges of oil of hazardous substances into the waters of the United States. However, the process by which natural resource damages are assessed is not fully developed, is subject to unnecessary delay and conflict, and remains unusually controversial.
The Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process generally followed in federal cases is intended to determine and quantify injury and related damages resulting from a pollution event, such as an oil spill. This paper reviews and comments on the fundamental issues raised by recent NRDA experiences and suggests ways in which the process can be significantly improved. The paper also reviews regulations developed by the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the draft regulation proposed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Because NRDA is in large part fundamentally a scientific inquiry, the paper addresses the current difficulties, complexities, and constraints in applying the scientific method to real-time pollution events such as oil spills. In addition, these pollution events, in particular large oil spills, generate enormous public scrutiny, creating great political pressures on natural resource trustees and those named as responsible for the spill in determining natural resource damages based on uncertain data.
A workable and reasonable NRDA result requires careful use of available scientific theory and information, which is frequently incomplete. The potential for resolution of NRDAs raises difficult issues of the proper use of science in the context of the confrontational process of litigation. Unfortunately, the NRDA process raises the prospect of the improper use of science — especially where data are not available or are inconclusive or scientific theory is not clearly established — as a tool of selective advocacy serving one side or another rather than the dispassionate search for truth. Various options for preventing the misuse of science are presented. The authors conclude that if the focus of all participants in the NRDA process is the efficient and equitable determination of injury, damage and restoration of the environment where possible, the potential for misuse of science is minimized.

Technical Report IOSC-003

Prepared by:
Captain William F. Holt, U.S. Coast Guard (Ret)
Mercer Management Consulting, Inc.

Aseries of catastrophic oil spills in the past five years has caused governments and governmental institutions at the local, national, regional, and international level to reconsider past decisions on appropriate levels and types of oil spill response capabilities, including salvage. This initiative has generally been undertaken by developed countries, but some emerging economies and, to a lesser extent, developing countries, have begun to view large scale oil spills as a potential threat to their interests and are taking action to provide protection for important resources. This paper reviews the recent developments in the decision-making processes used by governments in determining the level and type of oil spill response capability and surveys oil spill response systems in selected countries. This review and survey provide for the derivation of general principles that could be used by governments in future considerations of this issue. The current international legal regime for oil spill response, including the newly enacted International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response, and Cooperation, 1990 (OPRC) is examined to determine if adequate instruments are in place for a global and comprehensive approach to oil pollution. There is a significant gap in the existing legal regime insofar as a satisfactory funding mechanism for oil spills threatening the resources of developing countries, in particular. A new approach is required, ensuring an adequate level of protection for any nation threatened with a catastrophic spill, founded on the application of the general principles for determining an oil spill response capability.

Technical Report IOSC-004

Prepared by:
Alun Lewis, SINTEF Applied Chemistry, Environmental Engineering
Don Aurand, Ecosystem Management and Associates

Oil spill dispersants are one of the possible responses to oil pollution at sea. Some countries have found dispersant use to be an effective way of limiting the environmental damage that may be caused by an oil spill, while other countries favor the use of alternative response methods. The debate has been especially protracted in the United States. In many respects, the issues raised in a recent workshop in Leesburg, Va. (SEA, 1995) reflect international issues in areas where dispersant use is controversial.

Technical Report IOSC-005


Prepared by:
T.H. Moller and R.S. Santner, The International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Ltd.

Government and the shipping and oil industries have invested heavily in creating and maintaining expensive oil spill response systems against a background of decreasing numbers of intermediate and major oil spills worldwide. This situation has generated a reappraisal of the optimum level of oil spill preparedness and how it should be funded.
The International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation, 1990 (OPRC Convention) defines the basic elements for cooperation between government and industry in generating improvements in developing countries. This paper reviews the partnerships for dealing with spills arising from the transportation of oil by sea in the context of the Convention.
Areas of cooperation between government and industry cover both oil spill preparedness and response. The development of oil spill preparedness should reflect the degree of pollution risk. Analysis shows that most major incidents occur close to ships' destinations and that comparatively few developing countries are in high-risk areas. Preparedness often is compromised through shortage of funds. Current international systems incorporate preparedness procedures, including equipment stockpiles, for oil spills in a variety of situations such as the passing tanker scenario.
In addition to underwriting the cost of oil spill response, industry has a role in maintaining trained personnel and stocks of equipment, but a realistic limit must be placed on such provisions. OPRC has created a framework for spill response, using existing resources, and ensuring that supplementary expertise and equipment are available.
A sustained commitment is required from both government and industry to support appropriate improvements in oil spill preparedness and response. Budgetary restrictions imposed on the International Maritime Organization (IMO) have curtailed some of these essential functions. As a result, industry has an opportunity to make a long-term contribution to safeguard them and thereby promote the development of an effective oil spill response capability in all countries.

Prepared by:
J. Wonham, Ph.D., C. Eng., Professor of International Transport, Department of Maritime Studies and International Transport, University of Wales, Cardiff

Virtually all countries depend to some degree on international oil. More than 26 million barrels of oil travel by tanker through international waters daily. Transporting oil has inherent risks for accidental pollution of the waters and coasts of countries bordering tanker routes, but, in many cases, there is no formal relationship regarding spill preparedness between the oil transporter and the potential pollution victim. In addition, some coastal states may consume very little oil but are at high risk from spills due to the proximity of a tanker route. Where does the responsibility lie for ensuring that oil pollution preparedness capability is developed in coastal states at risk?
This paper reflects upon the attitudes of governments toward disparities in oil spill preparedness. It also looks at the question of who is or should be responsible for helping to eliminate such disparities in sea areas where governments have co-operative arrangements with neighbouring or distant states.
Bearing in mind the adoption by some 130 heads of state and governments of the Rio Declaration at the Earth Summit in June 1992, in which Principle 161 (UNCED, 1992) re-states the importance of the "Polluter Pays Principle" as a policy objective, government representatives interviewed were asked whether the Polluter Pays Principle has been implemented in financing their national oil spill arrangements, or whether they have made any specific commitment to do so. The representatives of regional bodies were asked to identify co-operative activities that contribute to the elimination of disparities in oil spill preparedness in their sea areas and to indicate topics on which future co-operation would be concentrated. They also were asked if there had been an increasing emphasis on government/industry collaboration in their deliberations. The insights provided by the above-mentioned experts illustrate the differences among nations and regions in dealing with spill preparedness.

Technical Report IOSC-006

Prepared by:
Jenifer M. Baker, Consultant

This paper, drawing upon the scientific literature, aims to identify key points and clarify issues relevant to oil spill response and the question of when it is reasonable to stop cleaning. There is no consensus on definitions of clean and the acceptability of predicted natural cleaning timescales; human intervention is justified if the natural timescale is agreed to be unacceptably long.
No cleanup method is a panacea, and different ecological and socio-economic interests may have conflicting needs. Net Environmental Benefit Analysis (weighing cleanup advantages and disadvantages as far as possible in the contingency planning process before a spill occurs) is advocated as a way forward.
Most documented shore recovery times are over timescales of one to five years, regardless of whether they were cleaned or not. Prolonged recovery times of up to 20 years or longer may result from extremes of either aggressive cleanup or uncleaned, heavy oiling. Beyond a certain point, expenditure of money on cleanup and restoration will not have a beneficial effect on recovery because inherent timescales for some ecological processes cannot be accelerated.
It is important to promote understanding and more constructive involvement with the media and public before a spill occurs. Suggested methods include producing information material and involving environmental groups in contingency planning processes.

Technical Report IOSC-007

Prepared by:
Robin Perry, Principal, Robin Perry and Associates

Over the past 20 years, governments and industry have expended considerable effort to improve spill preparedness and response. This paper reviews where improvements have occurred, which elements have been most or least effective, and where future investment should concentrate.
There are a wide variety of approaches to spill response. There is no universal solution to an oil spill, and all available strategies may be required. Despite its proven effectiveness, dispersant use often is discouraged, possibly because of a persistent myth that it will cause lasting environmental damage. Responders, therefore, often are denied use of what could be the most effective tool in the right circumstances.
Other myths persist — for example, the purchase of more equipment is the solution. The reality is that, without proper planning and support, additional equipment solves nothing. Future efforts must concentrate on strengthening spill infrastructure. Another myth is that mobilising every available resource leads to better response. The reality is that, by selecting appropriate techniques and resources, together with strict cost control, successful response can be conducted at a sensible cost.
Politicians, the media, environmental interest groups, and the public must be educated that, despite response improvements, oil almost always will come ashore. In most cases, however, the environment will not be permanently damaged. Unless public expectations can be reduced to accept this, investment will never be perceived as a success.
It is concluded that, in some places, response capabilities have improved. Unfortunately, in many otherplaces, they have not: too many myths remain, and too few realities are understood.

Technical Report IOSC-008

Prepared by:
June Lindstedt-Siva, ENSR

The history of judging spill response performance documents the early default criterion in the 1970s — remove visible oil — that evolved into ecologically based criteria in the 1980s — minimize spill impacts and protect environmentally sensitive areas. In the aftermath of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, more stakeholders and more criteria entered the spill response process in the 1990s.
Each stakeholder is concerned with receiving favorable media coverage, or at least minimizing negative coverage, and often views the media as final judges of response performance. The many stakeholders and their many, sometimes conflicting, criteria for judging response are examined, and factors that promote or impede response success are identified.
Recommendations are made to develop response goals and criteria acceptable to all stakeholders in advance of a spill incident. These criteria can then be used to develop contingency and response plans focused on achieving the goals and objectives of all stakeholders. Response performance can then be measured against those criteria either by the response community during exercises and routine responses or an independent panel in the aftermath of a major incident. These evaluations, using stakeholder criteria, can be returned to stakeholders for their consideration in either adjusting criteria that are proven impractical or revising plans to better meet the criteria. Recommendations are offered to foster debate and are aimed at establishing a standard mechanism for response performance measurement and ultimately improvement.

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