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 coast
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.