News 09 May, 2007

Super CEPCO Pollution Control Exercise North Sea and English Channel

A number of European States has just completed a ten day Co-ordinated Extended Pollution Control Operation (Super CEPCO) over the North Sea and English Channel. Previous CEPCO exercises have been limited to a period of 24 hours. A CEPCO operation is airborne surveillance over a designated sea area for a set period of time with back up from ships and satellite observations. The aims of such an operation are to strengthen the enforcement of Marpol regulations, increase the deterrent effect of airborne surveillance and raise the levels of co-operation and co-ordination between contracting parties to the Agreement for Co-operation in Dealing with Pollution of the North Sea by Oil and other Harmful Substances, better known as the Bonn Agreement.

The Bonn Agreement provides the framework for the co-ordination of anti-pollution surveillance measure and pollution clean up response of contracting states which are currently Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, UK, the European Union and will later this year include Ireland.

The states take turns to co-ordinate exercises with the recent ten day sweep of the North Sea and English Channel being co-ordinated by Belgium. During this CEPCO exercise the aircraft were equipped with Side Looking Airborne Radar (SLAR), capable of spotting hydrocarbons up to 20 kilometres either side of the plane’s trajectory. There were 45 separate observations of pollution and five vessels were detained for contravening Marpol regulations.

Belgium is due to report further on the exercise on 30 June 2007 at the 7th Meeting of the European Group of Experts on Satellite Monitoring of Sea Based Oil Pollution which, co-incidentally, will be held on the same day that the European Commission Joint Research Centre hosts the first meeting of the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) CleanSeaNetUser Group.

Following the exercise the Belgian North Sea Minister, Mr Renaat Landuyt, issued a statement indicating that the signatories to the Bonn Agreement and the European Commission wished to signal to the maritime world that the pollution of European waters would not be tolerated.

The exercise clearly indicates a determination on the part of European states to enforce Marpol with continuing rigour and there is a likelihood that courts will impose higher penalties both on companies and individuals found to have breached the regulations.

In this context Members may wish to re-familiarise themselves with Loss Prevention Bulletin on “Oily Water Separators” and Notice to Members No.9 2004/2005 entitled “Criminal Enforcement of Oily Water Separator Related Offences and Club Cover”.