Oil pollution risks

The Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Environment) Regulations 2009 (Environment Regulations) give effect, in part, to the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation 1990 (OPRC) in Australia.

NOPSEMA is the national expert regulator for offshore petroleum activities and an active participant in the Australian Government crisis management framework and Australia’s preparedness and response arrangements under the National Plan for Maritime Environmental Emergencies (The National Plan).

In these roles NOPSEMA is responsible for the oversight of response actions to oil pollution events from offshore petroleum operations in areas of Commonwealth jurisdiction. Furthermore, NOPSEMA is responsible for gathering and disseminating incident specific information in accordance with whole of government incident coordination arrangements.


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Legislative requirements for management of oil pollution risks

  • The intent of the regulations is to ensure that oil pollution risks associated with the activity have been detailed and evaluated enabling appropriate control measures to be put in place to meet set statements of performance.

  • The titleholder must demonstrate all things reasonably practicable are being done to prepare for their specific oil pollution risks and that the risks posed by oil pollution are of an acceptable level.

  • The environment plan must contain an oil pollution emergency plan which includes adequate arrangements for responding to and monitoring oil. Specifically this includes: 

    - the control measures necessary for timely response

    - arrangements and capability to ensure timely implementation of those control measures and, provide for the ongoing maintenance of capability

    - arrangements and capability in place for monitoring oil pollution to inform response activities as well as monitoring the effectiveness of these activities.

  • The environment plan must include appropriate testing of response arrangements for the nature and scale of the oil pollution risk for the activity.

  • The environment plan must provide for monitoring of impacts to the environment from oil pollution and response activities sufficient to inform any remediation activities.

  • The environment plan must demonstrate that response arrangements are consistent with the national system for oil pollution preparedness and response and, comply with other applicable legislation.

  • The titleholder must have completed and demonstrated the necessary consultation with relevant authorities, response organisations and other stakeholders and, provided for ongoing consultation where appropriate.

Oil spill preparedness and response work program

NOPSEMA maintains a risk-based focus on oil spill preparedness and response through a dedicated work program in this area. The work program includes a range of activities including advice, promotion and compliance in order to:

  • ensure titleholders oil spill response capabilities are commensurate to risk, appropriately tested and, provide for timely and effective response measures

  • identify and promote focus areas for continual improvement.

Oil spill preparedness and response has also been identified as a priority area for the offshore petroleum industry by the International Offshore Petroleum Environmental Regulators (IOPER) forum. NOPSEMA has worked closely with IOPER members to develop a set of guiding principles that aim to:

  • ensure proper and, systematic risk identification and management processes

  • drive identification, implementation and maintenance of spill planning, preparedness and response arrangements.

Oil spill preparedness and response guidance

The NOPSEMA IP1488 - Oil pollution risk management - Rev 1 - February 2017 (PDF 804KB) sets out the core oil pollution risk management concepts and considerations titleholders should have in developing an environment plan/oil pollution emergency plan submission.

The NOPSEMA IP1349 - Operational and scientific monitoring programs - Rev 2 - March 2016 (PDF 1.6MB) provides general advice and information to assist titleholders to develop fit-for-purpose OSMPs. In addition, the OSMPs aim to ensure titleholders can demonstrate an appropriate degree of readiness to implement their monitoring programs in the event of an oil spill.

Australian Government Coordination Arrangements for Maritime Environmental Emergencies

The National Plan for Maritime Environmental Emergencies

The National Plan is an integrated government and industry framework that seeks to enable effective response to marine pollution incidents and maritime casualties. The framework, in accordance with the polluter pays principles of the OPRC 1990, provides for industry as the control agency for all spills which originate from offshore petroleum activities. NOPSEMA collaborates closely with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), as the manager of The National Plan, to ensure that arrangements under The National Plan, the OPGGS Act and associated regulations are aligned and understood.

Offshore Petroleum Incident Coordination Framework

The Australian Government established the Offshore Petroleum Incident Coordination (OPIC) framework for coordinating a whole of government response to a significant petroleum incident in Commonwealth waters. The framework interfaces with other emergency incident response/coordination arrangements, including The National Plan, titleholder oil pollution emergency plans and state/Northern Territory marine pollution contingency plans as appropriate.


For more information on Australian Government Coordination Arrangements for Maritime Environmental Emergencies see the quick links provided.