On 28 June 2013, the European Union published a new Directive on the safety of offshore oil and gas operations in its Official Journal. The Directive represents a significant milestone as this is the first time that oiled wildlife response is specifically mentioned within European legislation. Sea Alarm welcomes the inclusion of protection of oiled wildlife within the scope of this Directive.
The Directive requires Member States to prepare external emergency response plans covering all offshore oil and gas installations or connected infrastructure, as well as potentially affected areas within their jurisdiction (Art.29). According to the Directive those emergency response plans must include:
“arrangements for the mitigation of the negative impacts on wildlife both onshore and offshore including the situations where oiled animals reach shore earlier than the actual spill” (Annex VII (h)).”
The overall objective of the new legislation is to reduce the occurrence of major accidents relating to offshore oil and gas operations and to limit their consequences, thus contributing to the protection of the marine environment and wildlife from pollution.
An oil spill in or near one of the vulnerable marine or coastal habitats of the European Seas could have serious environmental impacts, with potentially devastating effects on marine wildlife. In a worst-case scenario, hundreds to thousands of animals may become oiled, with potentially lethal consequences if nothing is done to mitigate the effects.
If implemented as intended across the European Union, the new legislation would ensure that Member States cooperate with all concerned stakeholders to ensure that wildlife response plans are developed and put in place. The Directive will help reinforce the importance of the support that Sea Alarm provides to European countries and to the work of the European Regional Agreements, such as HELCOM.
The full text of the Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on safety of offshore oil and gas operation can be found in the Journal of the European Union.