EMSA has issued its Annual Report on Network of stand-by oil spill response vessels. The vessels are ready to respond to oil spills at sea caused by ships as well as by offshore installations following the request of a coastal State or the European Commission. By the end of 2013, the Network comprised 18 fully equipped vessels ready for immediate mobilisation.

As of 1 March 2013, with the entry into force of Regulation (EU) No 100/2013, EMSA has a new mandate to respond to marine pollution caused by oil and gas installations. As one of the actions to implement this new task, in October 2013 EMSA vessels participated for the first time in an operational exercise scenario to test response to oil pollution occurring during offshore operations in the western Black Sea.

To achieve the level of performance for pollution response required by the Agency, vessels and their crews participate regularly in training, drills and operational exercises.


The number of drills and exercises carried out annually has increased significantly over the years in line with the development of the Network. The figures for 2013 are summarised in the table below.


Summary of Drills and Exercises carried out in 2013


Outcome of Drills and Exercises in 2013

  1. Evaluation of the acceptance drills, quarterly drills and exercises by the Agency's staff in line with pre-established "guidelines" is an effective method to ensure that the level of response preparedness of the Network is adequately maintained.
  2. The evaluation of drills and exercises either based on observations by EMSA staff present on board or on the contractors' reports provided a number of lessons learned with regard to the technical condition of the vessels and equipment as well as the level of training of crews.
  3. The overall outcome of the drills and exercises carried out during 2013 demonstrated that the service is operated efficiently and in accordance with EMSA requirements. The performance of the vessels, oil spill response equipment, crews and response coordinators is the main criterion for the evaluation of contract implementation.
  4. A number of equipment sets in service since 2006-2007 show signs of ageing and/or deterioration. For such equipment, the possibility of technical failure is significantly higher. There is a need to develop a policy for equipment replacement.
  5. More benefit could be achieved from the operational exercises if Member States would apply a more in-depth exercise evaluation and provide the Agency with comprehensive feedback on the performance of the EMSA vessels. Attendance of EMSA observers to post-exercise debriefings to discuss and evaluate results of the exercise is recommended. DG ECHO is currently developing the Mechanism Exercise Framework document that, once adopted by the Civil Protection Community, could be a supporting tool for planning and assessment of marine pollution response exercises.
  6. There was an improvement in the outcome of notification exercises in 2013. Only one of the 10 exercises was not completed with the Incident Response Contract (IRC) signature (in 2012 there were three uncompleted exercises). In 2014 the Agency should continue to encourage Member States to conduct full notification exercises for the mobilisation of EMSA's vessels, including the signature of the IRC.
  7. Notification exercises demonstrated that use of the Common Emergency Communication and Information System (CECIS) simplifies and facilitates mobilisation of assistance to a Member State affected by a pollution incident. EMSA should strongly encourage the use of this system during notification exercises and real incidents. However, Member States should also be aware that it is a legal obligation to provide a notification about any incident that may affect other countries via SafeSeaNet. It is recommended that both systems (SafeSeaNet and CECIS) should be used during future notification exercises. To enhance Member States' expertise with regard to the use of SafeSeaNet and CECIS tools, the Agency organised a table-top exercise during the 3rd Vessel User Group meeting, 23 October 2013.


Distribution of Network of EMSA contracted vessels at the end of 2013


The vessels contracted by the Agency are all equipped with state of the art oil slick detection, containment and recovery equipment. They are technically capable of achieving high recovery rates and have a sizeable on board storage capacity.

Once the technical requirements of each contract are satisfied, the most important factors determining success of the system are the skills of the vessel's crew for the operation of the equipment and the capability of the oil spill response coordinator on board to lead the response action. Regular training, drills and exercises are essential to achieve and maintain the appropriate level of performance.

Every VAC defines the types and number of drills and exercises to be carried out by each associated vessel. Detailed instructions on conducting drills, including their methods of evaluation, are provided in the "Guidelines on Conducting Drills and Exercises for the EMSA Contracted Vessels". These Guidelines constitute a component of all contracts.

The Vessel Availability Contract defines two types of drills:

1) Acceptance Drill, and

2) Quarterly Oil Pollution Response Drill;


and two types of exercises:

1) Operational Exercises, and

2) Notification Exercises.


Learn more information about EMSA's Drills and Exercises during 2013 by clicking at the report below




Full list of Drills and Exercises - Annual Reports

EMSA: Report on Pollution Preparedness and Response Activities




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