The Task Force on Arctic Marine Oil Pollution Prevention (TFOPP) was established at the Kiruna Ministerial Meeting in May, 2013 to explore how the Arctic Council can help to advance oil pollution prevention in the Arctic. Although much work has been done in identifying best practices, there is important and challenging work to be done in identifying how, in practical terms, Arctic States can work towards this goal.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and delegates to the Arctic Council’s Task Force on Arctic Marine Oil Pollution Prevention (TFOPP) clearly believe in the value of prevention efforts. The TFOPP approached its mandate with a sense of urgency when it met in the historic Rica Holmenkollen Park Hotel on 16-17 January.

About the Task Force

Co-chaired by Russia and Norway, the Task Force is charged with developing an “Arctic Council Action Plan for Oil Pollution Prevention”, while maintaining a balanced approach to economic and social development as well as protection of the fragile Arctic environment. For the seminal document describing the Task Force’s mandate and composition, see the SAOs’ report to Ministers from the Kiruna Ministerial Meeting.

The meeting

The meeting in Oslo began with presentations from each of the eight Arctic states on their own national-level frameworks for the prevention of marine oil pollution. Each delegation gave an overview of the ministries or departments that manage and regulate the industries that are most central to the work of the Task Force: petroleum and shipping. Many presentations addressed the infrastructure, physical capacity, safety culture and technologies that support national-level prevention measures. Industry representatives were also invited to present the industry’s efforts in the field, and will be involved in the future work.

Existing work by Arctic Council working groups and task forces – including the recently-released Summary Report and Recommendations on the Prevention of Marine Oil Pollution in the Arctic (RP3) - will in many ways guide the efforts of the TFOPP. At the meeting, presentations and commentary came from Arctic Council Working Groups EPPR & PAME, as well as from some observers and outside experts. In this meeting, the Task Force also drew upon the work of subject-matter experts in oil pollution prevention strategies, regulations and technologies.

The importance of sharing between Arctic states was repeatedly addressed as a critical issue. Facilitating information-sharing between regulatory agencies, sharing of experience and sharing of data were all highlighted as important areas for potential future work.

Delegates

Delegates from all eight Arctic states took part in the meeting. Also contributing / observing were the Aleut International Association (one of six Arctic Council Permanent Participant organizations), representatives from the Arctic Council Working Groups EPPR and PAME, and several observer states and organizations.

Photo: Oil skimmers at work / by NOAA Photo Library / Creative Commons BY / Click to access original