Enhancing oil spill response capacities in the South Baltic Sea region via cross-border utilization of biodegradable oil binders
Occurrences of oil spills are responsible for very significant environmental degradation; they are more likely to happen in areas with dense shipping traffic, or in the close vicinity of transport pipelines and/or other infrastructures used for production and processing purposes. Without international co-operation, individual countries often lack sufficient resources and assets to successfully respond to large-scale oil spill incidents. This can be related to the vast quantities of oil involved in those incidents, or the lack of necessary special equipment for dealing with the tasks at hand by the country under the need to respond. For the successful resolution of oil spill incidents, close and effective international co-operation- especially between neighboring countries that usually “share the burden” of oil pollution- is a vital necessity. On this basis, the South Baltic Oil (SBOIL) project aims to strengthen the existing oil spill response capacities in the South Baltic region, introducing a cross-border spill response tool based on the new ‘green technology’ of biodegradable oil binders (BioBinders). In order for this new concept to be implemented, it is necessary to examine the international and national regulations and guidelines with reference to sorbent use and the exchange of oil spill equipment in the area of interest, and also analyze the national oil spill contingency plans of the different countries involved in the project. After investigating the legal requirements for the utilization of BioBinders in the South Baltic region, the analysis at hand presents the outcomes of a Table Top Exercise that was based on a realistic oil spill scenario in the wider region. This exercise tested the compatibility of international/national/regional plans regarding the use of BioBinders and examined the topics of recovery and waste management, including alternative techniques available for oil spill response. The results suggest that the use of BioBinders is promising, and represents a response option to improve the existing oil spill response capacities in the South Baltic region; the main challenge lies with the difficulty in dealing with waste management, mainly because of the current legislation in place within the participating countries.
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