Why is WSMC making a change to the Oil Spill Contingency Plan?

New Washington state oil spill contingency regulations went into effect on January 14, 2013. These new regulations place additional requirements on contingency plan holders that operate in WA state waters. To properly meet these new regulations in the most cost-effective manner, WSMC is revising its oil spill contingency plan and taking a new approach to OSRO coverage under its plan. This revision will provide full compliance with the regulations, and do so in the most cost-effective manner for the benefit of WSMC’s members.

What is changing regarding OSRO coverage in the WSMC Plan?

WSMC wants to assure that its members receive coverage in the most cost-effective way possible. Currently WSMC retains its OSRO through a sole source contract. This arrangement has resulted in high expenses that must be passed on to members. In the new plan, WSMC will be providing OSRO coverage through directly contracted retainer OSRO first response resources combined with supplemental resources provided by WSMC’s members through pre-existing contractual arrangements.

What are directly contracted resources?

These are resources that will be under direct retainer contract with WSMC. Currently, WSMC is finalizing a contract with Global Diving & Salvage, Inc. to provide an initial response capability that includes personnel, response vessels, oil boom, oil skimmers and storage in strategic locations throughout the WSMC coverage area. These directly contracted resources will be sufficient to handle over 95% of all WSMC spill incidents.  

What are supplemental resources?

Supplemental resources are OSRO resources provided by, or through, the WSMC member.  If needed, the supplemental resources would be used to supplement WSMC’s directly contracted resources.  In most instances, these supplemental resources already are under contract or accessible to WSMC members by membership in MPA/MSRC, by means of membership in an International Group P&I Club. or by means of a contract with an approved OSRO.  In this way the WSMC plan will be leveraging a WSMC member’s existing access to these resources.  

This makes so much sense, why didn’t WSMC make this change sooner?

Washington regulations only recently enabled plan holders to utilize supplemental resources, and WSMC could not make this change until WSMC’s contract with its existing OSRO contractor terminates at the end of 2013.

Is this type of arrangement found in other places, in other plans?

A similar arrangement has been in place for the US Coast Guard Federal Vessel Response Plans and in California for years where a vessel owner/operator provides the OSRO resources to meet state regulations. 

In addition, the umbrella plan holder cooperative on the Columbia River, Marine Fire Safety Association (MFSA), currently uses the supplemental resources arrangement to meet certain Washington state contingency plan regulations.  MFSA does this under a process and with procedures that have the full approval of Washington Department of Ecology. The revised WSMC plan will be using the same process and procedures as those in the MFSA approved plan.

Was there a change in Washington law pertaining to entities that may provide umbrella plans?

There has been no change in the law in this regard.  Under Washington law, only a non-profit corporation may provide an umbrella oil spill contingency plan. All others contingency plans must be individual vessel plans (or for a fleet of vessels owned or operated by the same owner or operator), with each vessel owner/operator required to maintain a state approved contingency plan, conduct an annual table top spill exercise and annually conduct two deployment exercises. 

When will this revised contingency plan go into effect?

This change and the revised WSMC contingency plan will go into effect on January 1, 2014.

What are the benefits of the WSMC Plan?

With coverage under the WSMC plan, a member benefits from the organization’s experience gained through more than 20 years of providing oil spill coverage and managing oil spill responses for its members.

Starting in January 2014, the WSMC contingency plan will be based on Oil Spill Removal Organizations (OSROs)/Primary Response Contractors (PRCs) that in total will provide more dedicated oil skimming response vessels, more oil skimming capacity, more oil boom, and more dedicated liquid storage than any other contingency plan available in Washington state.

Compared to WSMC’s prior plan, the revised WSMC plan will be providing nearly 3 times the number of oil skimming response vessels, nearly 4 times the amount of oil skimming capacity, 1.5 times the amount of oil boom and over 20 times the amount of liquid storage.  Also, WSMC will now be utilizing OSROs/PRCs that have never failed a Washington state evaluation of their deployment exercises.

Additionally, WSMC Incident Commanders (the person directing the spill response) are all former US Coast Guard and NOAA senior officers. No other plan in Washington state provides this level of expertise.

Will my company’s best interests be protected in the event of a spill?

The WSMC spill management team responds prudently and appropriately to all spill incidents. This includes activating the appropriate level of spill response resources, with careful oversight of response costs. Other plan options where the spill management team both manages the response and also makes a profit on the amount of response resources activated may not necessarily provide the same level of cost consciousness as the WSMC plan and the WSMC spill management team. 

Will WSMC still provide the initial spill response?

There is no change. The WSMC plan will still provide, as it always has, the initial spill management team and response resources in the event of an oil spill incident.  Typically, this is the first 24 hours of the incident, allowing time for a vessel’s national QI spill management to assemble on-scene if needed.

Is there any change to the WSMC plan this year regarding supplemental resources?

No, there is no change to the WSMC plan for the remainder of calendar year 2013.  WSMC will be maintaining its OSRO/PRC contract with its contractor for the rest of this year.  So there is no change to enrollment, and there is nothing different you must do to maintain your WSMC coverage for the remainder of 2013.

Will there be changes to the WSMC enrollment process?

The WSMC enrollment agreement will be slightly revised to implement this change.  It will still be in the same format.  As before, the form will ask for basic vessel information, owner/operator contact information, information about oil carried on board. This form will also ask for OSRO/PRC coverage information, clarifying the OSRO company and whether the vessel is a member of MPA/MSRC and/or the name of the vessel’s P&I Club, and the name and contact information for the vessel’s QI.

New for 2014 will be an on-line enrollment process that will make it even easier to enroll a vessel in WSMC.

Will there be a change in the cost of WSMC coverage?

As a non-profit cooperative, WSMC provides the best coverage possible for its members, at the lowest possible cost and all transit fees collected go back to operation of the cooperative. WSMC’s efficient operation, low overhead and strong membership base has enabled WSMC to hold transit fees unchanged since 2005.  The WSMC Board of Directors will be tracking closely the cooperative’s budget, membership base and transit fee income to see if the transit fees may be reduced under the revised contingency plan.

Will there be a change to WSMC’s overhead?

As a non-profit cooperative, WSMC is committed to keeping costs down. There are never any “overhead” charges on the WSMC transit fees. And all fees collected go to the expenses related to the operation of the cooperative.

What will be the costs to have access to MSRC as a supplemental resource?

This depends on your vessel type and the size of your fleet.

For tankers, membership in MPA will provide access to MSRC resources (note, a tank vessel may not contract directly with MSRC, but rather they would sign up with MPA). If your vessel is not already an MPA member, contact Judith Roos at (703) 326-5617 or via email at to arrange for membership.

For non-tank vessels, typically your P&I coverage provides the mechanism for access to MSRC resources, at no additional cost.  See the linked matrix for more specific information.  For smaller, non-tank vessels, such as fishing vessels that may not necessarily belong to a P&I Club, contact MPA and inquire about its minimum dues membership program.

If a tank vessel is using National Response Corporation (NRC) as its OSRO, would it be eligible for WSMC coverage after January 1, 2014?

Since NRC, through NRCES, presently meets the planning standards for Washington State and as long as NRC continues to meet those standards, then pending any contracting restrictions, NRC would qualify as a supplemental contractor for the WSMC Contingency Plan.  For a tank vessel that contracts with only NRC for its national OSRO coverage, this would be a contract issue that the owner/operator would need to discuss with NRC.

Vessels that have both MSRC and NRC coverage would have full WSMC coverage through their MSRC coverage, for tank vessels through their membership in MPA and for a non-tank vessel through its P&I Club arrangement.

How will WSMC be working with my vessel’s Qualified Individual (QI)?

WSMC has always worked closely with vessel QIs during spill responses and will be working even closer under the revised WSMC plan.  As the WSMC Incident Commander initiates an oil spill response, the WSMC incident commander will also be contacting the vessel’s QI to apprise the QI of the situation, and if circumstances warrant, work through the QI to activate the necessary supplemental resources to respond to the oil spill incident. This is the same approach to working with QIs and activating supplemental resources that is currently in place in the approved MFSA contingency plan.

Will owner/operators have to do anything different to maintain WSMC coverage?

This depends on your type of vessel and your current arrangement for OSRO coverage.

See the linked matrix for your situation. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact WSMC Executive Director Roger Mowery or WSMC Response Manager Tom Callahan, at 206-448-7557, or via email at

Will there be any changes to the reciprocal arrangement that provides coverage for vessels outbound from US ports, transiting Canadian waters while in the Straits of Juan de Fuca?

The federal and state regulations covering requirements for vessels transiting US and CAN waters are currently under review and interpretation by the regulatory agencies.  Regardless of the upcoming revision to the WSMC plan, some changes may occur to the reciprocal arrangement in 2014.  More information on this issue will be provided as it becomes available.