4.While operational response techniques are well established, typically the most problematic and long-lasting aspect of a marine pollution incident is the assessment of environmental harm, environmental rehabilitation programs and continued monitoring of impacts and the success of restoration. Concerns about real or perceived environmental impacts receive intense attention from regulators, media and the public long after the immediate cleanup is complete. Failure to address these concerns can result in serious, long-term reputational damage, along with the potential for large compensation claims that are hard to refute.
Following recent significant offshore spills, there is an increased focus by industry and regulators on marine pollution response. Regulators now consider not only at an operator’s spill contingency plan, but also their ability to implement that plan.
2.In Australia, regulators now require comprehensive operational and scientific monitoring programs to support a spill response and assess the level of damage. This paper draws on our experience developing these programs for offshore oil and gas operators.
3.To be effective, implementation of some aspects of the OSMP must begin almost immediately an incident occurs, when traditionally the focus is on physical containment and clean-up. Pre-impact baseline assessment before oil hits sensitive environments is critical to demonstrating whether the spill has resulted in contamination and the extent of impacts, and a challenge for companies is to identify how they will gather baseline data in a timely and cost-effective way. A credible, robust program of environmental sampling and analysis is also essential to justify the demobilisation of response and remediation activities.
Developing and planning for the rapid implementation of an OSMP is a complex and challenging task.
The OSMP must include study protocols that are flexible enough to account for the specific spill characteristics, in addition to the organisation, staffing (including identification of suitably credible experts to lead scientific programs), HSE plans, initiation and termination criteria, and logistic support requirements.
1.In this paper each of these fundamental components of an Operational and Scientific Monitoring Program (OSMP) are described and discussed in the context of spill contingency planning and with focus on improving spill response outcomes.