EU Places of Refuge exercise in Norway

By Helle Hammer, Managing Director of Cefor and Chair of the IUMI Political Forum

History has taught us that written guidelines may not always be enough when faced with a real situation of a vessel in distress. When IUMI welcomed the new EU operational guidelines for places of refuge in January 2016, we also stressed that the true success will be demonstrated as actual incidents occur. Fortunately, they are not too many. Exercises therefore become necessary for Member States to familiarise themselves with proper procedures and the tools available to them.

The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) organised, together with the Norwegian Coastal Administration, a table top exercise on the Operation Guidelines in Horten, Norway, 27-28 September. The exercise was held in conjunction with a larger live exercise on pollution response in Skagerak (SCOPE). The exercise was well attended by Member States and observers representing amongst others salvors, P&I and hull insurers (including IUMI), and played out a scenario in which communication tools and coordination among the co-ordinating and supporting Member States were key elements.

Through plenary and workshop discussions it was clearly explained how insurers can respond and what lies within the scope of P&I and H&M respectively in these situations. Several tools and information sources are now available to assist coastal states when dealing with an incident. This will allow for better advised and quicker decision making based on a proper assessment of each situation. As stated in the guidelines, there shall be no denial of access to a place of refuge on anything (commercial or financial) other than safety grounds.

The operational guidelines will be updated based on lessons learned, and a fourth version was published in January 2017. IUMI has been involved as one of the industry stakeholders in the development of the guidelines, and strongly supports their implementation and global application.