BRUSSELS, Belgium – European members of parliament (MEPs) sitting on the EU’s industry and energy committee have received proposals related to last year’s Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Conservatives and Reformists group member Vicky Ford drafted a report which suggests ways of improve safety in offshore operations in EU countries, but without introducing a one-size-fits-all safety regime.
Ford's report, adopted by a large majority of MEPs, offers the following suggestions:
• To prevent accidents, she recommends European countries adopt a “site specific safety case” approach similar to that applied on the UK shelf to assess the individual risks at each location, rather than the “tick-box” culture evidenced in the Gulf of Mexico. Ford also believes safety regulators should be distanced from parties with a financial interest in oil and gas exploration, and that best practice should be issued to support whistle-blowers on safety issues
• If a spill does occur, Ford maintains there should be clear contingency plans in place and the EU should recognize that there has already been significant investment throughout its member nations in clean-up and capping equipment. She also suggests that an up-to-date log managed by the European Maritime Safety Agency (ESMA) - which would track the location of all public and private cleanup equipment - would enable its swift deployment. ESMA could also use existing satellite technology to track oil spills from ships and to monitor all other offshore spills.
Ford calls to establish financial liability for the costs of incidents without ambiguity. She favors establishing a mutual fund similar to that already operating in the North Sea to other sea areas; however, insurance mechanisms must not act as a barrier to smaller operators, she advises.
The report will be sent to the full EU parliament in September for a final vote, at which time further clarifications will likely be tabled.
Ford’s preparation for drafting the report included a visit to a drilling rig and a platform off the coast of Aberdeen. She also participated in a safety training course.
Ford said: "The UK and many other North Sea countries are considered to be a model of best practice and at the EU level we should exchange cases of good practice to ensure we all learn from each other.
"One suggestion put to me was the creation of an EU super regulator. However, I believe that it would be impractical. Instead, a greater enhanced cooperation between national regulators can and should be encouraged within each sea area, and regulators from non-EU countries in the sea area can also be included.
"My report does not seek to reinvent the wheel but it does seek to learn some important lessons from the disaster. We must take all appropriate action to ensure a similar occurrence can never occur in the EU, where many countries already have a very rigorous safety regime in place."