Emergency preparedness against acute pollution

In Norway, the Norwegian Coastal Administration is responsible for official preparedness against acute pollution and has nationwide administrative authority for acute pollution. All organizations that have a potential for pollution must have contingency plans. Municipalities have responsibility for preparedness that is not covered by private companies.

The NCA must ensure that preparedness at all times is scaled correctly in relation to risk and has the authority to issue orders in the case of acute pollution and to carry out inspections in the event of acute pollution. The NCA also has a national responsibility for coordinating private, municipal and state preparedness against acute pollution.

Those involved in activities that may cause acute pollution must ensure necessary preparedness to prevent, detect, stop, remove and limit the impact of pollution. Preparedness must be in reasonable proportion to the probability of acute pollution and the extent of the damage and inconvenience that may occur. The purpose of preparedness against acute pollution is to protect life, health, the environment and economic interests. A general and established principle in the Pollution Control Act is that the polluter must pay both for their own preparedness and for the implementation of measures to limit damage in the event of pollution from their activiteis. The polluter is also financially liable to take action and for compensation for damage to the environment and property.

Private preparedness

Around 70 onshore industrial enterprises, including refineries and tank farms, have received special preparedness requirements from the Climate and Pollution Agency (formerly SFT) and have established contingency plans. The oil companies on the Norwegian continental shelf have preparedness requirements that follow from the HSE regulations for the petroleum industry. For petroleum activities on the Norwegian continental shelf, the preparedness and action obligation lies with the individual operating company. All operating companies are members of NOFO, Norwegian Clean Seas Association for Operating Companies, which provides equipment and technical staff to the companies.

All companies have a preparedness and action obligation in the case of acute pollution as a result of their own activities, and an obligation to provide assistance when the state and municipalities take action.

Municipal preparedness

Municipalities have a preparedness and action obligation in minor cases of acute pollution within municipal boundaries that are not covered by private preparedness and where the polluter is unable to take action or the polluter is unknown. Examples include: tank trucks, discharges from underground tanks, oil spills in harbours with unknown source.

The municipalities cooperate on preparedness through 34 inter-municipal preparedness regions led by inter-municipal committees for acute pollution (IUA) covering all Norwegian municipalities.

Government preparedness

The government, through the NCA, has a preparedness and action obligation in the case of major incidents of acute pollution that are not covered by private or municipal preparedness. This primarily involves efforts concerning oil spills from ships and shipwrecks or unknown sources. If the responsible polluter is not capable of taking action, the NCA, if necessary, can take on action responsibility. The NCA is also responsible for ensuring that action is taken against vessels posing a risk of acute pollution.

Examples of measures are emergency towing, discharging and beaching of disabled vessels. In such situations the Norwegian Maritime Authority's maritime emergency personnel assists the NCA with advice and guidance. The NCA also has a close relationship with the Armed Forces, in particular the Coast Guard, when there is risk of acute pollution from ships. The NCA can mobilize resources from both private and municipal preparedness for major government action. International preparedness agreements also allow for international assistance.


The NCA is also responsible for acute pollution from shipwrecks. The NCA has therefore assessed the potential for environmental harm from shipwrecks. Acute spills of oil products from wrecks are considered the greatest risk to the environment. The NCA continuously monitors the wrecks with the greatest potential to pollute.

Cooperation with other authorities

The NCA also works closely with other government agencies. Here is an overview of some of the most important cooperation agreements: 

  • Armed Forces: The use of the Armed Forces equipment and personnel resources and deployment of oil spill response equipment on board Coast Guard vessels
  • Petroleum Safety Authority: Incidents on the Norwegian continental shelf that have led or may lead to acute pollution
  • The Norwegian Maritime Authority: Guidance in the case of incidents with vessels
  • The Governor of Svalbard: Measures against acute pollution on Svalbard
  • The Directorate for Civil Protection and Emergency Planning: Assistance in oil spill response operations
  • The Directorate of Fisheries, the Institute of Marine Research, the Norwegian Polar Institute, the Climate and Pollution Agency, the Food Safety Authority, the National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research and the Norwegian Directorate for Nature Management on guidance in the case of serious, acute pollution events