Norway proposes Act to protect coastline from oil spills

Tuesday, February 18, 2003
The Norwegian Parliament is considering a new Act that will extend Norway's territorial sea from four nautical miles to twelve nautical miles. According to Norway's leading maritime law firm, Wikborg Rein, the proposed Act is designed to reduce the threat of environmental pollution from oil spills and comes in the wake of the recent Prestige incident. "Russian oil companies are rapidly increasing their output from oil fields east of the Barents Sea. As a result, ever increasing amounts of oil are being moved by tanker out of the Murmansk region and down the Norwegian coast. It is this increasing threat of pollution that has prompted the Norwegian authorities to take action," explains Haakon Stang Lund, partner at Wikborg Rein. The Act, which is now with the National Assembly for approval, would enable Norway to establish traffic separation zones along the Norwegian coastline. Tankers laden with oil would be directed further out to sea while vessels in ballast would be allowed nearer to the shore. It is hoped that this will significantly reduce the possibility of a grounding which could result in a spill. Over recent years there have been a number of groundings along the Norwegian coast, some of which have polluted the coastline. "This is just one of the measures being taken by the Norwegian government to prevent a Prestige-type incident in its waters," says Stang Lund. "Norwegian authorities have already reached an agreement with the Russian authorities whereby the Russians must give 2-3 days' notice of any laden tankers heading from northwest Russia along the Norwegian coast." The Act would also enable Norway to establish a 24-nautical mile zone for customs purposes. It is hoped that this will make it easier for the Norwegian authorities to intercept suspected immigrant and drug smugglers.

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