IMO News

This page contains news about the work of ISCO in relation to the organization’s committment to supporting the activities of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and promoting the dissemination of its work and in representing ISCO Members in the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee and its technical working groups on OPRC and the OPRC-HNS Protocol.

The 12th session of the OPRC-HNS Technical Group Meetings took place over 4-8 July 2011.

The ISCO delegation included David Usher (ISCO President), John McMurtrie (ISCO Secretary), Dr Douglas Cormack (Honorary Member) and Dr Wierd Koops (Honorary Member).

The TG Group welcomed its new Chairman – Mr Alexander von Buxhoeveden (Sweden) and Vice Chairman Mr Suh Woo Rack (Republic of Korea). Delegations attending TG12 included those of 23 Member Governments, the EC, IOPC, MOWCA (Maritime Organization for West and Central Africa), INTERTANKO, IPIECA, ITOPF, ISCO, OCIMF, WNTI (World Nuclear Transport Institute), REMPEC and RAC/REPPEITC-CARIB.

Topics addressed by TG12 included –

• Updating of IMO dispersant guidelines
• Operational guidelines on sunken and submerged oil assessment and removal techniques
• Potentially polluting wrecks
• Guidelines for oil spill response – offshore in situ burning
• Guidelines on the safe operation and performance standards of oil pollution combating equipment
• Manual on chemical pollution to address legal and administrative aspects of HNS incidents
• Summary of incidents involving HNS and lessons learnt
• Review of web content on OPRC-HNS-related information and inventory of information, best practices and R&D on HNS preparedness and response
• IMO role in Japan’s nuclear incident within the context of the Joint Emergency Management Plan (JPlan)
• Updating of OPRC Model training courses
• Oil Spill Response in ice and snow conditions
• The 3rd NOWPAP DELTA – Joint Oil Spill Response Exercise
• Technical Co-operation in Implementation on OPRC and HNS
• Implementation of the GI WACAF Project
• International Association of Oil & Gas Producers’ Global Industry Response Group Review
• Proposed guideline for oily water discharge from response vessels, arising from decanting of water from collected oil during major oil pollution response operations.

Presentations made during the meeting included –

• Raising response standards in the Mediterranean Region – A Regional Accreditation Scheme (ISCO)
• Classification of HNS Incidents (ISCO)
• ARCOPOL: the Atlantic Regions’ Coastal Pollution Response (Spain)
• Case Study: Oil spill response in Norway – The “Godafoss” incident (Norway)
• Case Study: MSC Chitra incident, Mumbai, India (ITOPF)
• Mediterranean Integrated Decision Support Information System on Transport of Chemical Substances (REMPEC)

The ISCO delegation submitted four papers to TG12 –

• Response to HNS Incidents at Sea – Classification of HNS Incidents (Dr Wierd Koops);
• Training – Template for information gathering at oil and HNS incidents (Dr Douglas Cormack)
• Harmonisation of Technology and Environment (Dr Douglas Cormack)
• Accreditation of Response Organizations – Raising Response Standards in the Mediterranean Region (John McMurtrie)

On behalf of IMarEST, John McMurtrie also reported on the status of the recently formed IMarEST Marine Salvage and Counter Pollution Special Interest Group.

Dr Douglas Cormack represented ISCO at MEPC62 (11-15 July, 2011), making interventions on agenda items 5, 6 and 8.

The MEPC approved the Report of the 12th session of the OPRC-HNS Technical Group. The MEPC also approved the planned outputs and provisional agenda of the 13th Meeting of the OPRC-HNS Technical Group and the exceptional request to schedule the Group’s 13th session for the week following MEPC 63, to allow delegations to participate in Interspill, the IMO-sponsored European oil spill conference that would take place the week following the proposed scheduling of TG13.


At the 106th session (27 June to 1 July 2011) the IMO Council approved ISCO’s request to convert its provisional consultative status with the Organization to full consultative status.

In acknowledging the decision, ISCO Secretary John McMurtrie thanked IMO for the privilege accorded to ISCO by the granting of provisional status over the last four years.

“The International Spill Control Organization (ISCO) is a truly international group with members in 37 countries and all the main regions of the world.
ISCO’s key objectives are well aligned with IMO’s aim to protect the marine environment and ISCO is firmly committed to supporting IMO and disseminating information on IMO’s work and achievements”.

“Members of ISCO are the International Spill Response Community – the organizations and people on which you depend on for response to pollution events, the manufacturers who make the equipment, consultants who develop response plans, training organizations, people involved in R&D – in short, all involved in providing the response infrastructure on which we all depend.

ISCO is the only organization that collectively represents this community at IMO.

Over the last four years ISCO delegations, which have included some of the world’s most respected experts in oil and HNS have contributed to MEPC and especially to the OPRC-HNS Technical Group through papers, positive inputs to discussions and working groups. I believe we have acquitted ourselves well and will continue to provide our direct inputs to encourage adoption of the highest practicable standards for prevention and control of marine pollution”.


The 11th session of the OPRC-HNS Technical Group Meeting was completed last Friday with the approval by delegates of the TG11 report to be submitted at the 61st MEPC Meeting that starts on Monday 27September. The TG11 meeting ended with a presentation and vote of thanks to Mr Nick Quinn of New Zealand for his outstanding chairmanship of the TG over the last three sessions. Earlier in the proceedings, Mr Alexander von Buxhoeveden (Sweden) was unanimously elected as the new chairman and Mr Suh Woo Rack (Republic of Korea) as the vice-chairman for the year 2011, subject to the approval of MEPC. Delegates agreed that the quality of Mr Quinn’s leadership of the TG had been exceptional and wished him well in his new position with the Australian Marine Response Centre (AMOSC).

Work completed during TG11 included an oil spill waste management decision support tool; a joint IMO/IPIECA guidance document on sensitivity mapping for oil spill response; an operational guide on the use of sorbents; and guidelines for oil spill response in fast currents.

Presentations made during the meeting included a demonstration of a new computer-based model for support of marine HNS incident response (Dr Wierd Koops, ISCO); Deepwater Horizon (USA and IPIECA); the recent Barents Sea exercise (Norway and Russia); and the new Korean Oil Spill Training Facility (Mr Suh Woo Rack, Republic of Korea).

ISCO members will be interested to note that ISCO was invited to work with the delegations of REMPEC, USA, Spain and ITOPF in further developing a draft ISCO template for gathering information, lessons learned, and best practice relevant to marine HNS incident response, and to submit this document to TG12. ISCO, in association with other interested delegations, was also requested to continue its efforts to collate information on experience gained in marine HNS incident response and sub-sea oil recovery, relevant R&D and new technology. REMPEC is to provide a web platform for HNS-related information on its website but ISCO will, for the time being, continue to share information received with other delegations and interested parties by posting it on the IMO Work Groups HNS and Sub-Sea sections of the ISCO website.

The 61st Session of MEPC runs from Monday 27th September through to Friday 1st October and ISCO will be represented by Dr Douglas Cormack.


The tenth meeting of the IMO MEPC OPRC-HNS Technical Group (TG10) concluded on Friday 19th March, 2010. Work on the Publication checklist for new IMO manuals, guidance documents and training materials was completed ready for submission to MEPC 60. After final editing the Manual on Incident Command Systems (ICS) is planned for submission at MEPC 61. The Group progressed work on a broad range of other oil and HNS projects.

Technical discussions were leavened by a number of special presentations. One by the delegation of the United States on the Exxon Valdez incident, included the video produced by NOAA, and reviewed the response efforts by those who were directly involved. The observer from IMarEST gave an illustrated talk on the MV Newcastle incident, involving ferrous sulphate, a dry bulk cargo, which had fluidised and shifted whilst in transit, resulting in the production and leaching of sulphuric acid liquor within the vessel compartment. The representative from Norway described the Full City incident, an oil spill that occurred off the coast of Norway in July 2009, involving the loss of 1113 m3 of oil. The delegation of Sweden shared its experience in responding to the Linda incident, which involved the loss of four freight containers, three containing HNS, and the delegation of Australia gave an overview of the Montara incident which resulted in the loss of some 6.6 million litres of oil over a period of 108 days, until the well was finally capped.

ISCO presented a paper on the independent training and accreditation of private oil and HNS response contractors to the requirements of shoreline cleaning and it was noted that, in association with ISCO, a working group has been established by ISAA. It was agreed that ISCO will submit a further technical paper to TG 11. Going forwards, ISCO agreed to continue, alongside other delegations, with efforts to collate experience and lessons learned in response to marine HNS incidents and in dealing with sub-sea oil recovery.


The 9th meeting of the OPRC-HNS Technical Group (TG9) which ended on Friday 10th July was attended by delegations from 23 countries and 10 other organizations. Over the five days of the TG9 meeting delegates addressed a wide agenda of marine oil and HNS pollution related issues and agreed a report that will be submitted to the Marine Pollution Environment Committee (MEPC) this week. TG9 Chairman, Mr Nick Quinn (New Zealand) and Vice-Chairman, Mr Suh Woo Rack (Republic of Korea) were re-elected for the coming year.

ISCO’s efforts in collating information relating to the response to HNS incidents and to sub-sea oil recovery operations were acknowledged in the meeting report and the ISCO delegation has been asked to continue this work.

At this week’s MEPC meeting ISCO will be represented by Dr Douglas Cormack who will present a paper on “The Independent Training and Accreditation of Private Oil and HNS Spill Response Contractors”.


The OPRC-HNS TG8 meeting, held at IMO’s newly refurbished HQ in London, was attended by delegations from 23 nations and observers from 10 international organizations. This, the eighth meeting of the Technical Group was opened by Mr Stefan Micallef, Deputy director of the Marine Environment Division. The meeting was chaired by Mr Nick Quinn of New Zealand who has succeeded Mr Mark Meza of the United States in this role. In addition to working on the formal agenda, delegates received illustrated presentations on recent events – Mr Suh Woo Rack of Korea spoke on the Hebei Spirit incident (December 2007), highlighting important lessons learned including logistics related to the management of some 1.2 million volunteers; on behalf of the Philippines, Ms. Patricia Charlebois of IMO gave a presentation on the Princess of the Stars Ferry Disaster; and the delegate from Spain, Mr Sergio Rodriguez Carbonell gave an account of the January 2007 Sierra Nava incident in Algeciras Bay. Mr Joe Small, consultant, gave a presentation on the new Introductory IMO Model Courses on Preparedness and Response to HNS Incidents in the Marine Environment. The finalised courses will now be submitted for approval at MEPC 59. ISCO has joined with other delegations including the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, France, Spain, Republic of Korea and ITOPF in support a work programme, being led by Italy, to gather more information needed for the development of Technical Guidelines on Sunken Oil Assessment and Removal Techniques. The scope will include the recovery of not only negative buoyancy oil from the seabed but also the recovery of oil from sunken vessels. ISCO Secretary, John McMurtrie, will be shortly writing to members to ask for their experiences and lessons learned in this kind of work. ISCO, in association with the International Spill Accreditation Association (ISAA), has also undertaken to submit a paper to OPRC-HNS TG9 on the training and accreditation of inland responders for shoreline clean-up in maritime incidents. On this matter, Dr Douglas Cormack, expressed the view that such a scheme would address a shortage in the number and availability of trained personnel that can be mobilised for shoreline clean-up in response to a major marine oil spill incident.


ISCO President, David Usher, will represent ISCO at the 101st IMO Council meeting on 10th –14th, November 2008. Dr Douglas Cormack, Honorary Member of ISCO and Chairman of the International Spill Accreditation Association (ISAA) will represent ISCO at the 58th session of the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) on 6th–10th October, 2008. The ISCO delegation to the 8th OPRC-HNS Technical Group Meeting over 29th September to 3rd October, 2008 will consist in ISCO Executive Committee member, Rear Admiral M. L. Stacey, CB; Dr Douglas Cormack, Honorary Member of ISCO and Chairman of ISAA; Kevin Miller, Member of ISCO Council for the UK; John Noble, Member of the IMO-ISCO Liaison Committee; and John McMurtrie, ISCO Secretary and Member of the ISCO Executive Committee.


The Fifty-seventh session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee will run from Monday 31st March to Friday 4th April, 2008. The ISCO delegation to MEPC will include David Usher (President), Rear Admiral Michael L. Stacey (Member of Executive Committee) and Dr Douglas Cormack (Honorary Member).


The seventh session of the MEPC/OPRC-HNS Technical Group that will take place from Tuesday, 25 March to Friday, 28 March 2008. Due to the ongoing building renovations at IMO Headquarters, the meeting will once again be held at the Headquarters of the Marine and Coastguard Agency (MCA) UK, Spring Place, 105 Commercial Road, Southampton, SO15 1EG, United Kingdom. The ISCO Delegation to MEPC/OPRC-HNS TG will include John McMurtrie (Secretary), Rear Admiral M. L. Stacey (Member, Executive Committee), Dr Merv Fingas (ISCO Member of Council for Canada) and Kevin Miller (ISCO Member of Council for UK)


IFollowing its recognition as a NGO with Consultative Status at IMO (See report in ISCO Newsletter 109 of 17th December, 2007) ISCO President, David Usher, Secretary, John McMurtrie and Executive Committee Member, Rear Admiral Michael L. Stacey, C.B., met in London on 11th February with Stefan Micallef, IMO Deputy Director, Patricia Charlebois, Head, Pollution Response Section, and Malamine Thiam, Head, Technical Co-operation Coordination. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss and gain mutual understanding on a wide range of issues, including ways in which ISCO and IMO can work together towards achieving shared objectives. The meeting was both positive and productive with several areas being identified for future co-operation.

For the very first time, individual responders, spill response organisations, manufacturers and others responsible for the world’s capacity to respond to oil and chemical spills, will have a voice at the International Maritime Organisation. The recognition of ISCO means that, at long last, the professionals in the front line of spill combat operations will join with other organizations at IMO representing oil, shipping and environmental interests. The inclusion of those who provide the essential infrastructure for spill response fills a longstanding gap and will ensure a much better balance, allowing direct dialogue between IMO and the spill response community. The decision was taken at the end of November when the Assembly of the IMO endorsed the decision of the IMO Council and confirmed this by a letter received from IMO on 14 December, 2007. ISCO representatives are planning to meet with IMO early in the New Year for discussions with IMO on a number of initiatives.

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