An introduction to the National Spill Alliance?



Nigel Collingwood, President, National Spill Alliance


Since the implementation and ratification of the Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation, 1990 (OPRC) in the UK, my company (Edge Group) has been involved in being a Marine Coastguard Tier II contractor for the South East of England. As a company with limited staffing resources involved in this type of work, it became apparent over the years that if for some reason additional back-up was required, be it personnel or equipment, where would it come from?

First attempts

A spill which could take some days or even weeks to clean up, with a requirement to work 24hr days, soon uses up all of ones resources. In the early day of OPRC we tried to set up oil spill ‘clubs’ amongst ports to provide extra hands and supplies. Although this seemed a logical course of action, most ports, however, do not have the spare manpower to send off to work in another port. There was also a reluctance to release emergency spill equipment just in case they might need it for themselves or it got damaged. We therefore made loss agreements with other companies in a similar business to ourselves. However, prices were not fixed, and if you did call in a road tanker or specialist equipment, you could be caught out with an escalating bill.

Emergence of the National Spill Alliance

Due to the unknown cost of these expenses, and requiring a more structured system, the National Spill Alliance (NSA) came into being. It soon grew to provide coverage throughout the UK and Ireland for not only marine, but also industrial spills. Today we can boast national coverage by accredited contractors, established prices, availability of specialised equipment, extra staff and enhanced buying power for absorbents and other spill equipment. One phone number provides for spill cleanup throughout the UK. The NSA has now been awarded with a number of contracts to cover companies in the UK in the event of a spill.

The way the system works

In case of spill call out to 0800 970 2112

• Verbal assessment describes the incident
• The nearest responder in the NSA is contacted and sent outwith as much information as possible
• An NSA responder arrives quickly on scene; assesses the spilland then reports back further details to NSA control.

The NSA responder then deals with cleaning the spill up. If any damage has occurred to property or the spill is considered large, then an independent consultant will attend the scene to assist the responder in the remediation of the site and ensure that best practise is adhered too. Additional equipment can be hired in if it is considered necessary. The consultant will oversee any problems and provide final sampling to make sure site is clear of pollution. All costs are set by the NSA, and the customer will be invoiced by the NSA for work done. The NSA will liaise with the Environment Agency or the Marine Coastguard Agency or local council contaminated land officer.

A clean up can now be done, efficiently, cost effectively with independent consultation, providing a final report with contracted prices, anywhere in the UK.

Furthermore, NSA can also give overseas back via consultants or through response. Kent International Airport is 10 minutes from the main base, and equipment and personnel can be deployed within hours of a spill worldwide.

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