Ships and cargoes – guidance

Assessing risk and responding to UK coastal and marine pollution

Response information and training on countering pollution or threats of pollution from shipping and offshore installations in UK waters.

Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) is the UK’s competent authority responsible for the provision of response procedures designed to deal with any emergency at sea that threatens or causes actual pollution.

National contingency plan for marine pollution from shipping and offshore installations

The draft national contingency plan for marine pollution from shipping and offshore installations has been recently reviewed and is out to consultation. It sets out revised procedures for incident response.

MCA programmes and takes part in maritime exercises designed to maintain the operational readiness of its staff and equipment. Its Counter Pollution and Response (CPR) branch also organises training courses for local authorities (LAs) to prepare their staff when responding to shoreline pollution.

Oil spill contingency regulations and guidelines

OPRC regulations

The 1998 Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation Convention (OPRC) regulations state that UK ports, harbours and oil-handling facilities must prepare and submit oil spill response contingency plans to MCA for approval. This must be done if the port, harbour or oil handling facility is in any one of the following categories:

  • any harbour where a statutory harbour authority has an annual turnover of more than £1 million
  • any harbour or oil-handling facility offering berths alongside, on buoys or at anchor, to ships of over 400 gross tonnes (gt) or oil tankers of over 150 gt
  • any harbour or oil-handling facility in respect of which the Secretary of State (SoS) has served the harbour authority or operator a notice stating that he is of the opinion that maritime activities undertaken at that harbour or facility involve a significant risk of spillage of over 10 tonnes of oil
  • any harbour or oil-handling facility on which the SoS has served the harbour authority or operator a notice stating that he is of the opinion that it is located in an area of significant environmental sensitivity, or in an area where a discharge of oil or other substances could cause significant economic damage

OPRC guidelines

The OPRC guidelines are for those involved in the creation of oil spill response contingency plans. They promote a coherent national approach to the successful management of oil pollution incidents. They’re designed to ensure that the national contingency plan (NCP) and local plans, including those of harbour authorities, work together to respond effectively.

Shoreline clean-up assessment techniques (SCAT)

As part of an oil spill response, SCAT teams systematically survey the area affected by the spill to provide rapid accurate geo-referenced documentation of shoreline oiling conditions. This information is used to develop real-time decision-making and to expedite shoreline treatment planning and response operations.

A SCAT programme includes field assessment surveys, data management, and data application components as part of the spill management organisation. The field survey teams use specific and standard terminology to describe and define shoreline oiling conditions. The SCAT process is flexible, and the assessment activities are designed to match the unique spill conditions.

The SCAT manual is a field guide to the documentation of oiled shorelines in the UK. You can download the SCAT manual and SCAT rapid survey form and instructions.

Training courses

The following MCA courses are accredited by the Nautical Institute and are for LAs.

Course materials are available to download below. MCA don’t provide training course folders so make sure you’ve arranged for all participants to have the downloaded and printed course materials at their training.

Beach Supervisor course

MCA arranges 6 two-day courses for LAs across the UK each year. These courses are free but the LA must provide the classroom venue and make the domestic arrangements. Total numbers of participants on each course are expected to be between 30 and 60. LAs need to bid for these courses.

Bid information

MCA will give priority to bids that offer the most value, ie they show that they cover as much of the coastline as possible with the widest range of participants. When preparing your bid remember to:

  • include neighbouring councils to increase the total coastline covered by staff attending the course
  • make sure that all relevant staff in each council are available to attend the course

Read the information note about bids for the beach supervisor course and where to send them.

Beach Supervisor course materials

Training materials are not provided on the course. You’ll need to download the training material and bring this with you to the course.

National training course on oil pollution, contingency planning and response

MCA’s CPR branch runs a residential national training course on oil pollution, contingency planning and response course 4 times a year at strategic locations around the UK. This course is for emergency planning officers in LAs and national government officers and covers all aspects of spill response from the LA perspective.

It provides management staff with an overview of oil pollution response and how their roles and responsibilities fit into the NCP. The courses are theory only. They don’t include a practical element so course attendees don’t need to bring personal protective equipment.

The information note (INF) contains a list of residential training courses and an application form.

National training course on oil pollution, contingency planning and response course materials and example timetable

Training materials are not provided on the course. You’ll need to download the training material and bring this with you to the course.

Decision-making in oil spill response: course by arrangement

These courses are for:

  • statutory nature conservation agencies
  • environmental regulators
  • government fisheries departments

They prepare participants for their role in the Environment Group set up in response to a maritime incident. Contact MCA’s CPR Branch to arrange these.

Telephone: 02380329441

Marine pollution surveys

Advisory Committee on Protection of the Sea (ACOPS) conducts surveys on behalf of MCA.

They look at reported discharges attributed to vessels and offshore oil and gas installations operating in the UK Pollution Control Zone. You can download the latest ACOPS marine pollution survey 2012.

Surveys from 2002 to 2011 are available on ACOPS website.