23 August 2019

Fuel carrier fine sends a regulator message about emergency response

The recent fine imposed by the New South Wales Environmental Protection Authority (NSW EPA), the regulator for dangerous goods in NSW, on a large petroleum cartage company should be a wake-up call for the sector, advises guest blogger Gallagher Principal Broker Phil Hardaker.Phillip Hardaker broker2This applies to not only the petroleum transport industry, but all dangerous goods transport operators Australia wide.

During a night time accident involving a prime mover being hit by an intoxicated driver, the attached tanker collided with a rock wall under a bridge on Manly Road in Seaforth, Sydney, last year. The prime mover was disabled as a result and a difficult recovery of the fully laden tanker ensued. The incident site included a potentially hazardous long downhill slope to Shell Cove and the Spit Bridge which is part of the extended Sydney Harbour waterway.

The carrying company utilised a contractor as its nominated ‘emergency responder’ to the incident. However, in imposing the fine, NSW EPA stated, “We understand that Fire and Rescue NSW asked [the carrier] to control the situation and recover the dangerous goods. [The carrier] engaged a contractor to manage the situation. We allege the contractor failed to evaluate the situation correctly and didn’t obtain the equipment and resources to perform the recovery in a timely manner.

“Under the law, [the carrier] is responsible for the actions of its contractor/s. Although the tanker wasn’t seriously damaged in the incident, a major metropolitan arterial road was impacted for 18 hours before Fire and Rescue ordered the tanker be moved off the road to prevent further inconvenience and environmental risk during the next evening traffic peak. Furthermore, the resources of FRNSW, NSW Police, Roads and Maritime Services and Northern Beaches Council were tied up during this extended incident,” NSW EPA stated.

Where responsibility rests

So clearly the major lesson for the petroleum transport industry arising from this incident and the fine imposed is that prime contractors are ultimately responsible at law for the emergency response in dangerous goods accidents and incidents.

While it is commonplace for petroleum carriers and distributors to appoint contracted emergency responders, this of itself is not sufficient to void their responsibilities under the Australian Dangerous Goods (ADG) and related state and territory legislation.

All petroleum carriers and distributors should immediately review their compulsory transport emergency response plans (TERPs) to ensure they are operational, relevant, that all details are continually kept up to date, and most importantly, that all staff are fully trained on its potential application and operation.

An effective, well planned TERP outlines the necessary resources, personnel and logistics that allow for a prompt, coordinated and rational approach to a transport incident. Additionally a TERP should also include the following elements

  • plan activation
  • response tasks
  • resources and preparedness

Take note and respond accordingly

In issuing this fine the regulators are sending a clear message to the petroleum industry and all (dangerous goods) industry participants, whether carriers, distributors, emergency response contractors or other related organisations, that the EPA will not tolerate delays in the industry’s legal obligations regarding emergency response.

The industry needs to collectively take notice, with operators considering their responsibilities under the law and planning accordingly.

Need help?

Gallagher has been heavily involved in the petroleum and dangerous goods transport industry in Australia for over 40 years, and its specifically designed Oilpac insurance solution is a recognised market leader.

Talk to us for advice about your obligations and insurance needs.

Phil Hardaker has over 30 years’ experience providing insurance and risk management advice to the petroleum and transport industries and is an active participant in the petroleum transport industry, with a particular focus in the area of emergency response.  

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