Raising the response standards

Director of BOSCA, Simon Barnes, believes the group’s accreditation scheme will benefit both suppliers and customers of oil spill prevention and clean-up equipment and services

The British Oil Spill Control Association (BOSCA) was formed in 1981 by a small number of expert companies active in the sector.

In the early 1990s BOSCA initiated a scheme of approved, accredited contractors for spill response. The accreditation scheme, initially directed at inland spill responders has now extended into the marine environment. The introduction of this scheme relied to a considerable extent on the support and encouragement of the regulatory agencies and on their stated intent to employ only accredited contractors for future spill response activities.

Oil spills are categorised according to their severity and the accreditation scheme allows for companies to be accredited to respond to different severity of spills in different environments. Therefore companies can be accredited to respond to freshwater, marine and groundwater spills at the following levels:

  • level one – requires basic knowledge and minimal specialist equipment,
  • level two – requires some specialist training and additional equipment,
  • level three – includes a requirement to attend external training courses, have detailed knowledge of the discipline concerned and have comprehensive equipment.
Spill handling
Spill response times are set as low as two hours. A quick and effective response is critical to reducing environmental impact. The accreditation system, which any company is able to apply for, now includes a spill visit by the scheme administrator. During the three-year period of validity of the accreditation one spill will be attended for each type and level of spill. The spill visit is now an integrated part of the scheme and if companies are unable to show their ability to handle spills then their re-accreditation will be affected.

Importantly the scheme allows for a complaints procedure. Where it is believed that an accredited contractor has not responded adequately to a spill incident, the customer may submit its concerns to BOSCA who will then investigate the incident. The scheme aims to raise the standards of spill response and contractors are encouraged to share experience, good and bad, with fellow contractors. To summarise, from the point of view of the contractor, the scheme:

  • provides a level playing field,
  • improves clean-up standards,
  • can provide additional work,
  • provides liaison with the regulators,
  • a means of dealing with disputes,
  • gives access to specialist knowledge.
For the customers, the scheme:
  • gives confidence the contractor has a certain level of competence,
  • ensures the contractor complies with current legislation,
  • can save money,
  • offers a complaints procedure.
Importantly the scheme has the support of the insurance industry, which has used accredited contractors when contacted regarding spills.

The accreditation scheme in operation is managed by BOSCA. The association in turn undertakes its progressive development to achieve greater rigour of accreditation assessment, to extend its scope and to promote the scheme actively as a means of further increasing customer confidence in contractor performance, both at home and overseas. BOSCA has held two events recently in Warwick and Stirling, Scotland, to promote the scheme. The day-long events were well supported and included a small exhibition demonstrating the technical ability of spill response capability in the UK. On the basis of this success it is intended to run a similar event in 2003.

BOSCA’s development plan for the future sees:

  • greater involvement for the accreditation scheme,
  • a practical input for a training syllabus on spill response,
  • developing stronger international links,
  • supporting UK companies worldwide,
  • extending the scope of spill response capability,
  • working with government and agencies to reduce the environmental impact of spills.
BOSCA believes the accreditation scheme can be extended nationally and internationally to cover additional services, for example, training.

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