More transparency on the offshore and less light

28 Jun 2012


Plenary meeting – OSPAR Commission for the protection of the North-East Atlantic

So far from Guyana and yet so close, member states of the OSPAR Commission for the Protection of the North-East Atlantic in Bonn approached the offshore industry with Robin des Bois as their pilot fish. The area of competence of this international Commission extends from the arctic waters to Portugal.


About 1,300 oil and gas offshore facilities are established in the OSPAR area, mainly in the North and Norwegian Seas. Pioneering in the field of ocean industrialization, this sector benefits from its geographical isolation. Robin des Bois proposed to the OSPAR member states to accurately map the oil rigs and label each of them with an identity voucher including key dates, water depth, drilling depth in the ocean floor, flags (certain drilling installations in the OSPAR zone are under Panama or Marshall Island flag), names of companies involved (owners, operators, managers, sub contractors…), accidents having occurred on site (fires, oil releases…) and main chronic emissions. This proposition was not greeted favorably by the UK delegation, neither was it by the International Oil and Gas Producers Association (OGP). Enforcing transparency is expensive whereas all the data is available on no free-of-charge databases, they say. These arguments were not convincing. France, Sweden, Spain, and Germany have supported Robin des Bois’s proposal. For once, the NGO will be invited to the next meeting of the offshore Experts Assessment Panel of OSPAR to itemize the project and its implementing means. Until now and for a long time, France had been represented on this panel by TOTAL. Has change finally occurred?

At Robin des Bois’ request, the United Kingdom will present its views on the TOTAL gas platform accident on the Elgin field, off the Scottish coast, at the next OSPAR Offshore Industry Committee, despite reluctance from the head of the British delegation who believes “that there was no pollution” (1). The of other member states delegates will discuss this analysis. It took TOTAL nearly two months, since March 25, 2012, to stop the leaks and with no guarantee of durability. In the Arctic where offshore exploitation is growing, means of intervention will either take longer to put into effect or totally be ineffective.

Light pollution

The offshore oilrigs are also traps for migrating birds. The spotlights similar in proportion to those of a football stadium break out into the cloudy skies, attracting birds that migrate preferentially at night to avoid predators. They turn, knocking against superstructures, tiring, falling injured or dead on the walkways or into the sea (2). 58 species are impacted. The OSPAR member states have not succeeded in agreeing to impose a light reduction on the platform during critical moments (poor visibility and migration periods). The main opponent is… the United Kingdom. The subject was maintained in the OSPAR working plan thanks to the rescue of Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands. Firstly a questionnaire will be sent to the industry representatives so they can bring their observations on birds encircling flights and deaths. Robin des Bois called the contracting parties for vigilance: the answers must be detailed, and industries should unilaterally take measures for light intensity reduction. Mitigation measures, on a German oilrig in Wadden Sea, have already proved their effectiveness to protect all birds while preserving the workers’ safety.





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