12/26/2017: Coast Guard, Arctic partners continue work on oil spill response, search and rescue in the Arctic marine environment

Coast Guard members from the Incident Management and Preparedness Policy Directorate attended the Arctic Council Working Group on Emergency Prevention Preparedness and Response (EPPR) meeting in Malmö, Sweden Dec. 5-7, 2017, to continue work on matters related to marine environmental response and search and rescue in the Arctic marine environment.

The EPPR Working Group, formed in 1991, is made up of representatives from each of the Arctic Council nations: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden and the U.S. The EPPR formed two sub-working groups: the Marine Environmental Response Experts Group, chaired by the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Search and Rescue Experts Group, chaired by Finland. EPPR holds meetings twice a year to discuss projects, proposals, and guidance from the Ministers and Senior Arctic Officials. In addition, the group uses the meetings as a venue for sharing best practices and lessons learned to ultimately enhance infrastructure and protocols needed to prevent, prepare, and respond to emergencies in the Arctic.

The EPPR focuses much of its attention on exercising the Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic (MOSPA Agreement). The objective of the MOSPA Agreement is to strengthen cooperation, coordination and mutual assistance among the Parties on oil pollution preparedness and response in the Arctic to protect the marine environment from pollution by oil.

Lt. Cmdr. Wes James, Chair of the EPPR Marine Environmental Response Experts Group, led discussions that centered on plans for the upcoming 2018 MOSPA Agreement exercise, which will be a full scale exercise between Finland and Sweden. MER Experts Group members collaborated on the exercise framework, timeline, and objectives and incorporating any lessons learned from the 2016 MOSPA Agreement exercise.

Other discussions during the MER Experts Group Meeting included:

• An update on the development of Operational Guidelines that designate notification and request (and offer) for assistance protocols in the event of an incident requiring multilateral coordination
• Proposal for future use of the Pan-Arctic Response Equipment Database, a searchable database of major response assets in the Arctic that will display both government and industry-owned equipment
• Update on activities supporting a joint U.S.-Norway project to help small Arctic communities better prepare for oil spills
• Proposal for future use on the update to the Field Guide for Oil Spill Response in Arctic Waters
• Progress on the production of a Compendium of Arctic Shipping Accidents database

The Search and Rescue (SAR) Expert Group, of which the U.S. Coast Guard is a member, held a full day meeting to discuss:

• Content for the SAR section of the new EPPR website
• A project proposal from Norway for a SAR Asset Database to be proposed at EPPR I 2018
• Coordination/information sharing with the Arctic Coast Guard Forum
• Participation at annual meetings of the Rescue Coordination Centers

Additionally, the group reviewed recent exercise after-action reports, which served to call out specific challenges of mutual interest for Arctic states. The SAR Experts Group will discuss, at future meetings, the appropriate role of EPPR towards international bodies like the IMO.

“The EPPR Working Group and corresponding Experts Groups provide an important collaborative opportunity for Arctic Nations, Permanent Participants, and Observers to discuss how we, as global stewards, can operate in the region responsibly,” said James. “We must continue to work together to ensure we protect the pristine Arctic marine environment and remain prepared to mitigate any impacts from what unprecedented levels of access to the Arctic could bring.”

This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official source documents, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These documents remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.

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