Emerging Policy

Coast Guard, Arctic partners head to Norway for work group meeting on oil spill response, search and rescue in the Arctic

U.S. Coast Guard members from the Office of Emergency Management attended the Arctic Council Working Group on Emergency Prevention Preparedness and Response (EPPR) meeting in Bodø, Norway, June 3-6, 2019, to continue work on matters related to marine environmental response (MER) and search and rescue (SAR) in the Arctic marine environment.

The EPPR Working Group, formed in 1991, is comprised of representatives from each of the Arctic Council nations: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden and the U.S. The EPPR formed two sub-working groups: the Marine Environmental Response Experts Group, chaired by the Canadian Coast Guard, and the Search and Rescue Experts Group, chaired by the U.S. Coast Guard. Agreements for which EPPR works to support include the Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic (SAR Agreement, signed 2011), the Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic (MOSPA, signed 2013), and the Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation (Scientific Agreement, signed 2017).  The EPPR utilizes a number of Expert Groups (MER and SAR) as well as project-specific groups (RAD) that support the EPPR’s mandates and initiatives.

EPPR holds meetings twice a year to discuss projects, proposals, and guidance from the Ministers and Senior Arctic Officials. In addition, the group uses the meetings as a venue for sharing best practices and lessons learned to enhance infrastructure and protocols needed to prevent, prepare, and respond to emergencies in the Arctic.

This was the EPPR’s first meeting in 2019. The Norwegian Coastal Administration, the Joint Rescue Coordination Center North Norway, and the Norwegian Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority hosted the meeting.

EPPR events brought a total of 85 participants to Bodø, twelve of which were from the United States. The EPPR plenary meeting was attended by 60 delegates, representing the Arctic States, one Permanent Participant from the Gwich’in Council, five Observer Countries (Italy, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and Spain), four Observer Organizations (International Arctic Science Committee, International Federation of the Red Cross, University of the Arctic, and the UN Environment Program) and one invited guest from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Two days of events preceded the EPPR plenary session, including:

  • An ARCSAFE/RADSAR Workshop, which is a cross‐country cooperation network to improve emergency prevention, response and the safety of rescue workers in case of a maritime accident involving a potential release of radioactive substances in the Arctic.
  • An Arctic Oil Spill Research and Development Workshop, which focused on the fate and behavior of spilled oil in cold water and ice environments, identifying and discussing strategies, plans and knowledge gaps related to oil spill response focused on non-mechanical recovery strategies, and exploring joint plans and fields for research opportunities.
  • RADEX 2019, an international tabletop exercise related to SAR operations during a radiological/nuclear scenario at sea in the Arctic. The main goals of the exercise were to identify possible challenges, search for best practices, facilitate an exchange of experiences, further improve national and international emergency preparedness and response to such events, and identify issues for follow‐up work.
  • A seminar to review the Norwegian Viking Sky incident that reviewed the recent incident and the potential challenges of a response of that magnitude.  The seminar brought together representatives from the Arctic States, Permanent Participants, Arctic Council Observers, the cruise ship community, SAR experts and organizations, and MER experts and organizations.

Other items on the plenary agenda included: the initial planning discussions for the MOSPA 2021 live exercise; the completion of oil spill response training videos for prevention, preparedness, and response for small communities; risk assessment methods and metadata; and a new project on wildfires in the Arctic region.

The U.S. delegation included:

  • Head of Delegation, U.S. Coast Guard Cmdr. Wes James
  • Alternate Head of Delegation, Mr. Eric Miller Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement
  • Subject matter experts from the National Nuclear Security Administration, including Ann Heinrich and Kirk Czap
  • Capt. Roberto Torres, U.S. Coast Guard representative to the Arctic Coast Guard Forum
  • Capt. Kirsten Trego, U.S. Coast Guard Deputy Director for the Office of Emergency Management
  • Lt. Cmdr. Adam Mosley, U.S. Coast Guard Office of Marine Environmental Response
  • Ben Strong, U.S. Coast Guard Office of Search and Rescue and the Chair, EPPR SAR Expert Group
  • Doug Helton, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

“EPPR’s world of work is far reaching and dives into many areas affecting the Arctic region, including marine environmental response and preparedness, search and rescue, radionuclide response, wildfire preparedness and response, and numerous others,” said Cmdr. Wes James. “I would like to personally thank our entire team of dedicated professionals from the United States for their leadership and dedication to these critically important issues.”

The next EPPR meeting will occur in Reykjavik, Iceland, December 2‐5, 2019.

This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official source documents, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These documents remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.

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