Responding to an Oil Spill
The Maritime Transport Act requires Maritime NZ and regional councils to respond to a marine oil spill (Part 23). New Zealand has a three-tiered approach to marine oil spill preparation and response. Industry (Tier 1), regional councils (Tier 2) and Maritime NZ (Tier 3) have clear roles and responsibilities under the Act.
Tier 1 plans are prepared by industry and are site specific. Tier 2 plans are the regional marine oil spill contingency plans that regional councils must produce. Regional Councils must respond to marine oil spills within their jurisdiction that exceed the clean-up capability of the Tier 1 response. Regional marine oil spill contingency plans are approved and audited by Maritime NZ. Maritime NZ is responsible for the national marine oil spill contingency plan. Tier 3 is the highest level of response and occurs when the marine oil spill exceeds the capacity of Tier 1 and Tier 2 responses. If additional response resources are required, international assistance will be requested.
Maritime New Zealand maintains a response capability of sufficient size to counter an oil spill of 3,500 tonnes, which is deemed to be a “one in a hundred year” event. The Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico released around five millions barrels of oil (each barrel contains just over one tonne of oil). The 2011 Rena disaster in Tauranga spilled approximately 350 tonnes of heavy fuel oil.
If the scale of an incident is beyond the nation's domestic capability, arrangements are in place to secure overseas assistance. This relationship is reciprocal − New Zealand will be expected to assist our neighbours if requested. Each region has resources to deal with the smaller spills that they would be most likely to experience, calling on national or international assistance in the case of larger spills
Oil spill preparedness is funded by an industry levy, the Oil Pollution Levy, which is required under the Maritime Transport Act. The Levy is collected to run New Zealand’s maritime oil pollution preparedness and response system. The Oil Pollution Levy applies to all commercial vessels over 100 gross tonnes and 24 metres or more in length (except those operating in fresh water), offshore oil installations, exploration wells and oil pipelines.
The intention behind Maritime New Zealand’s oil pollution preparedness and response is that the polluter pays. In circumstances where the polluter is not identified, the Levy is used to pay expenses from financial reserves set aside for that purpose.
Last updated at 1:41PM on February 25, 2015