For certain industrial facilities and vessels that store oil, contracts must be established with Oil Spill Removal Organizations (OSROs) in order to provide the personnel and equipment necessary to respond to an oil spill. On March 31, 2016, The US Coast Guard’s National Strike Force Coordination Center released the new 2016 Oil Spill Removal Organization (OSRO) Guidelines.
“This revision to the U.S. Coast Guard’s Oil Spill Removal Organization (OSRO) Classification Guidelines places the Coast Guard, the oil-related industry, and the public on the best possible footing for response to discharges and substantial threats.” - U.S. Coast Guard
According to the press release, a concerted and collaborative effort among the Office of Marine Environmental Response Policy (CG-MER), the National Strike Force Coordination Center (NSFCC), and private/public sector subject matter experts updated the guidelines to address current risks posed by heavy and Group V oils. Most notably, this update includes a classification scheme for non-floating oils that possess the potential to sink once discharged into the environment.
If a company does not own the necessary quantities of specialized response equipment, or requires additional equipment and personnel to control a worst case discharge spill scenario, U.S. Coast Guard certified OSROs can provide equipment and additional personnel.
Updates to OSRO Guidelines
In an effort to solidify the Coast Guard’s marine environmental response mission and unified approach to oil spill preparedness and response, updates within the OSRO Guidelines include:
- New annual review requirements for the OSRO Guidelines to be conducted by the NSFCC and CG-MER. This review will take place at the beginning of each calendar year.
- Revised and edited portions of each classification program to either clarify previous language, add context, or remove redundant language.
- Created a new classification in the OSRO Guidelines: Non Floating Oils classification. The Non Floating Oil classification meets the regulatory requirements of Group V oils in accordance with the criteria set forth by 33 CFR § 154.1047 and 33 CFR § 155.1052 and the inherent risk of other heavy oil types that may submerge or sink.
- Created the Non Floating Oil application and procedures to meticulously and qualitatively assess Non Floating Oil classifications. The application contains pertinent information for owners and operators to appropriately determine what Non Floating Oil classified OSROs would be best suited for their operations.
- Effective on November 30, 2016, all previous Group V OSRO ‘listings’ will be removed from the Response Resource Inventory. Furthermore, all Facility and Vessel response plan holders who may handle, store, or transport Group V oils shall only list Non Floating Oil classified OSROs or provide the required information in accordance with the regulatory Group V Response Plan Development and Evaluation Criteria. OSROs desiring to apply for the Non Floating Oil classification can do so now and refer to Chapter 6 in the Guidelines.
The OSRO classification process was developed by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) to provide guidelines to evaluate an OSRO’s potential to respond to oil spills. Although participation in the OSRO classification is voluntary, real-world incidents have shown that this program directly contributes to aggressive, rapid and well-coordinated responses. While an OSRO classification does not guarantee performance, nor does the use of a Coast Guard-classified OSRO relieve plan holders of their responsibility to ensure the adequacy of response resources, the success of this program has been proven as a best practice.