At the 2011 Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Nuuk the ministers mandated a Task Force to prepare an international instrument on Arctic marine oil pollution preparedness and response. This Task Force held its forth meeting in Helsinki 18-20 June 2012.

The meeting was chaired by Co-Chair, Ambassador Karsten Klepsvik with the assistance of the two other Co-Chairs, Ambassador David Balton and Ambassador Anton Vasiliev. The Finnish Minister Alexander Stubb and the State Secretary Katariina Poskiparta underlined in their speeches the importance of Arctic cooperation in the field of environmental protection and oil pollution response, now when the economic activities in the Arctic seas are increasing.

The Task Force has agreed to propose a legally binding intergovernmental agreement. The proposal should be ready for translation to French and Russian by the end of 2012. The translations should then be distributed for domestic deliberations during the spring of 2013. According to the mandate the Task Force should present the result of its negotiations at the Arctic Council’s Ministerial Meeting in May 2013.

So far the work of the Task Force has made good progress, although some important issues are still open.

The legally binding agreement will probably have a few legally non-binding appendices. One appendix will contain an operative manual that probably will be developed and updated in close cooperation with the Arctic Council’s working group on Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response (EPPR). Another appendix will list some fields for cooperation and exchange of available information between the Parties of the agreement.

The next meeting of the Task Force will be held in Reykjavik 9-11 October 2012. Before this meeting a couple of working groups will continue the development of recommendations or best practices in the prevention of marine oil pollution and the planning for the operational manual for the Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic.

Information for the article provided by the Finnish Ministry of the Environment.

Photo: The icebreaker Kontio was used for a short trip and demonstration for the participants, Photo by Arctia Shipping Ltd.