WWF Clean Coast! - WWF's Voluntary Oil Spill Response

Grete Sponga cleaning up oil after the
© WWF-Norge

Summary

The existing oil spill contingency plan in Norway allows only a limited time frame to remove oil from the ocean before it reaches the shore. Normally, less than 20% of the oil is collected from the source.

In an attempt to improve clear up rates, WWF has launched Clean Coast! – WWF’s voluntary oil spill response. By training volunteers that can assist during an oil-spill clean-up operation WWF is increasing the efficiency of the response, and giving members of the public the opportunity to assist in practical conservation work.

Background

It is widely agreed that Norwegian oil spill preparedness is far from sufficient and action is needed to tackle the issue. The risk of an oil spill is greatest in relation to shipping, and the increasing transportation of oil along the Norwegian coast represents a significant environmental threat. In 2004, close to 12 million tonnes of oil was transported by ship along the coast of Northern Norway, and this is expected to increase to over 100 million tonnes by 2015. The amount of oil transported per ship is also increasing, which would make the extent of a potential oil spill even greater.

The consequences of an oil spill can be devastating for both the environment and local communities. Most parts of Norway are lacking capacity to perform large clean-up operations if and when the oil reaches the shore. Previous experience has always shown that the more people cleaning up after the oil spill, the less damage the oil will do.

There is however, a glaring need for trained people in case of an oil spill along the Norwegian coast, a need that can only increase in proportion to the increase in coastal traffic. Through training and organizing the volunteers, the Clean Coast! project contributes to strengthening oil preparedness in Norway and makes new resources available in case of oil spill. This project builds on earlier experiences from voluntary oil spill work at the Prestige accident off the coast of Spain and similar training completed in Finland. In Norway, there is recent experience of a serious oil spill following the Server accident.

Experience shows that oil spills can have enormous and devastating consequences. Exxon Valdez, Prestige and Server clearly show just how shocking these consequences can be. Oil polluted beaches, dead sea birds, oil flakes in the fishing areas and oil in the salmon seines are inevitable if the oil leaks out. The natural resources of the Norwegian coast include some of the world's biggest populations of fish, rich sea bird colonies, important populations of sea mammals and unique fiords. This natural environment provides the foundation for fisheries and tourism, and most small coastal communities are dependant on a clean and productive ocean.

The coastal businesses will not only be affected by the direct implications after an oil spill, they will also get huge economical effects deriving from a long term market failure. Two years after the Prestige accident, unemployment in fisheries was still above 20% and the total cost was estimated to be around 540 million euros.

Objectives

The project's main objective is to reduce the environmental and economical consequences of an oil spill along the Norwegian coastline, by establishing a competent and operative unit of committed volunteers.

The project will contribute to new capacity that would not otherwise be available. Close cooperation with the coast guard and other important actors ensures that this project effectively complements existing preparedness capacity.

Solution

Oil spill training courses are arranged for volunteers in selected cities and towns along the coast. The first course was in Fiskebøl, Lofoten in November 2005. Since then WWF has arranged between 3 and 6 courses with a total of 75-150 volunteers every year.
The courses are planned in close cooperation with the coastal authorities and NordNorsk Beredskapssenter, which has many years of experience in the field. The course lasts 3 days, and is arranged for 20-30 people at a time. The project will be a long-term, independent contribution to Norwegian oil spill preparedness, with a preliminary time frame of 5 years.

The course has 3 major components:
1) practical oil spill clean-up and beach sanitation;
2) safety; and
3) nature values and environmental risk in coastal transport and petroleum business.

The project is also cooperating with local environmental organizations, which can help with recruiting volunteers. All volunteers have to be over 18 years old. If an oil spill occurs, WWF will contact all volunteers that have completed training.

Achievement

The cargo ship Server ran aground off Fedje in January 2007. Around 370 tonnes of heavy bunker oil (type IFO 380) leaked and spread over a distance of 170km. It took almost 6 months to clean up, and the cost was over 150 mill kroners, or 18 million euros.

The coastal authorities asked WWF to mobilize its volunteers, who were on the scene within 3 days of the spill. WWF contributed to collecting 230 tonnes of oily mass at Fedje, and received positive feedback from the regional government, the coastal authorities, and the other authorities, that this work was necessary and that the volunteers were doing a valuable job. A clean-up of the beach areas would not have been possible unless these volunteers had not been willing to spend long days of hard work scraping or shovelling oil.

In 2006 a total of 6 Cleant Coast! courses were arranged (2 at Vardø, Fedje, Fiskebøl, Aukra and Horten), and in 2007 a total of 4 courses (Svalbard, Horten, Stavanger and Fedje). In 2008 there were 3 courses (Kristiansand, Ålesund and Honningsvåg).

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