The Arctic Council met this week for its 10th Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting with a number of major reports released, including updates on oil spill preparedness.
In 2015, the Arctic Council Ministers approved the “Framework Plan for Cooperation on Prevention of Oil Pollution from Petroleum and Maritime Activities in the Marine Areas of the Arctic,” an initiative designed to strengthen cooperation between national authorities and to foster cooperation with the private sector in order to improve best practices in the prevention of oil pollution.
Progress has included establishment of the Arctic Coast Guard Forum, a forum for sharing information and best practices and conducting joint exercises.
Additionally, the Arctic Ship Traffic Data (ASTD) project has progressed with the establishment of a password-protected online platform for analyzing shipping activities in the Arctic. ASTD project data will be available to Arctic States and the Arctic Council subsidiary bodies and will provide comprehensive Arctic shipping data to facilitate trend analysis.
Through a U.S.-led initiative, a searchable database has been developed that includes Arctic specific oil spill response equipment. The database includes traditional oil spill response equipment such as boom, skimmers, dispersants, oil spill response vessels, dispersant application systems, in situ burn equipment – all of which were identified through internet searches, direct contact with oil spill removal organization, and Arctic Council member states’ completion of a specific survey to help populate the database.
Less than one percent of U.S. Arctic waters have been surveyed with modern survey methods, and in anticipation of growing vessel traffic in the Arctic, NOAA is increasing its charting activities in the region to help ensure navigation safety. In the summer of 2016, NOAA ships Rainier and Fairweather conducted hydrographic surveying projects in the U.S. Arctic along the western coast of Alaska, including Kotzebue Sound, Port Clarence and Point Hope.
Reconnaissance bathymetry was also collected along the main shipping route, which extends from the Aleutians up through the Bering Strait as a joint effort with the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy.
Also released at the council meeting was the “Standardization as a Tool for Prevention of Oil Spills in the Arctic: Summary Report.” This is an effort undertaken by the Arctic Council Emergency Prevention, Preparedness, and Response Working Group (EPPR) which serves as a tutorial on the practice of engineering and technical standards development worldwide. It describes how standards for both the oil and gas, and maritime industries are identified, developed, established, maintained, and used. Through this effort, the EPPR hopes to facilitate a deeper appreciation of why standards are such a critical element in oil pollution prevention.
The Arctic Council status on implementation of the "Framework Plan for Cooperation on Prevention of Oil Pollution from Petroleum and Maritime Activities in the Marine Areas of the Arctic" is available here.
The Standardization as a tool for prevention of oil spills in the Arctic: Summary Report is available here.
Further reports from the meeting are available here.