Oil Pollution Emergency Planning – Terminals and Ports

Key Legislation:

For more detail on the Legislation relevant to this page, please use the following links:

Related Legislation:
Consent Needed: No consent is required but operators must produce and maintain an Oil Pollution Emergency Plan as outlined below.
What is Included in an Oil Pollution Emergency Plan: To be effective a plan must be clearly laid out and user friendly and it should contain certain essential elements:

  • Details of the responsible authority and boundary of the plans operation
  • Command and control arrangements
  • Notification procedures
  • Communications plan
  • Evidence of adequate risk assessment
  • Details of local environmental sensitivities
  • Pre-agreed response strategies
  • Detailed actions for individuals during an incident
  • Health and Safety aspects
  • Response capability listing (personnel and equipment)
  • Contacts directory
  • Interface with other plans, e.g. plans maintained by local authorities, countryside agencies (NE, CCW, SNH, EHS), environmental agencies and estuary management plans
  • A disposal plan
  • A training and exercise programme
  • A system for updating and revision
Who to Apply To: The MCA is the National Competent Authority and undertakes approval of harbour authority and oil handling facility plans on behalf of the Secretary of State for the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions.Plans should be compiled in consultation with adjacent ports, local authorities, the Scottish Executive, the Environment and Rural Affairs Department, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) and the Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). In England and Wales the equivalent bodies should be consulted (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Environment Agency (EA) and Natural England (NE))The MCA will not accept any plan for approval unless the following points have been addressed:

  • The plan has been prepared following consultation with the statutory consultees.
  • The plan has been agreed with the statutory consultees and a statement from each body is included within the plan.
  • Where the plan covers more than one port, harbour and/or oil handling facility, each party to the plan is in agreement with its contents and will cooperate in exercising the plan and implementing it following an incident.
  • A contract is in place with a British Oil Spill Control Association (BOSCA) Level 3(2) accredited Tier 2 contractor or a proposed in-house tier 2 capability has received MCA approval.

In the case where a Plan includes the suggested use of oil dispersants or other oil treatment products, these substances are subject to control and approval must be gained from either DEFRA or MS.

When to Apply: New harbours and oil handling facilities shall submit a plan at least two months before coming into being. Every harbour authority and operator shall fully review its oil pollution plan no later than 5 years after submission of the plan. Where any major changes occur which affects or could affect the validity or effectiveness of the plan, the harbour authority or operator is required to submit a new plan, or amend the existing plan within 3 months of such changes becoming known. The MCA has powers under the Regulations to direct that plans be altered to meet the National Contingency Plan or requirements for responding to an oil pollution incident in the harbour authority or operator area of jurisdiction.
Performance Standards: See Consent Application and Reporting Requirements.
Legal Requirements: An individual having charge of an oil handling facility who observes or is made aware of any oil handling facility involving a discharge of, or probable discharge of oil, shall without delay report the event. Depending on the size and type of the spill, different reporting procedures will apply.Under The Merchant Shipping (Reporting of Pollution Incidents) Regulations 1987 (POLREP), it is an offence for the master of a ship not to report an incident where a release of oil or noxious substances occurs or is probable. Failure to do so may result in being guilty of an offence punishable by summary conviction, by a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or on conviction on indictment by a fine. Where a ship is in UK waters, incidents must be reported to HM Coastguard; outwith UK waters, incidents must be reported to the nearest coastal state.
What to Report: The exact information to be reported shall be detailed in the Oil Pollution Emergency Plan, but will usually include:

  • Date and time pollution observed
  • Position and extent of pollution (estimated)
  • Tide and wind (speed and direction)
  • Weather characteristics and sea state
  • Characteristics of pollution (e.g. type of oil, liquid, solid, tarry lumps, weathered, etc.)
  • Source and cause of pollution if known
  • Details of remedial action taken
Who to Report to: The harbour master or other individuals specified in the OPEP as having charge of an oil handling facility must inform HM Coastguard immediately.
Penalties: It is a statutory offence to:

  • Fail to submit an emergency Oil Pollution Emergency Plan
  • Fail to renew/revise a plan when appropriate
  • Fail to implement the plan in the event of an oil pollution incident
  • Failure to prepare an Oil Pollution Emergency Plan that meets legal requirements

In a case of non-compliance with reporting, the MCA are likely to prosecute. In cases of non-compliance with Oil Pollution Emergency Plan, the MCA will require a legal content/format oil spill plan to be prepared.

Renewal of Oil Pollution Emergency Plan: A full review of the plan must be submitted no later than five years after submission. This is usually undertaken 1 year prior to the expiry date to allow time for statutory consultees approval.Where a major change occurs which could affect the validity or effectiveness of the plan then a new plan must be submitted, or amendments made to the plan, within 3 months of the changes becoming known.
Provisional categorisation of liquid substances: A circular (PDF document) has recently been issued by the International Maritime Organisation in accordance with regulation 6.3 of MARPOL Annex II, replacing all previously issued circulars under this title.