In November 2007, a severe storm grounded four Russian tanker ships in the Kerch Strait, causing the Volgoneft-139 to release over 1,300 tonnes of fuel oil into the sea. While some measures were taken immediately, weather conditions prevented clean-up efforts from taking place during the initial 48 hours. The resulting extensive physical damage to the sea and land led to property losses, contamination of the marine and coastal flora and fauna, as well as high clean-up costs and significant revenue losses for local industries.

Following therecommendation of the rapid assessment mission undertaken by the European Commission (EC) in mid-November 2007 to evaluate the environmental impact of the disaster and advise on immediate remediation needs, the EC invited UNEP to coordinate a further comprehensive multi-sectoralPost-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA), with the participation of the Government of Ukraine. In addition to the scientific assessment of the damages caused to the coastal and marine environment, the study also sought to examine the institutional and economic mid-to long-term needs of Ukraine related to the oil spill incident, as well as to review existing data on coastal sensitivity mapping for the region.

Specifically, the PDNA comprised the following four components:

Coastal and Marine Assessment: to obtain data on the impacts of the oil spill contamination on the coastal and marine environment of the Ukrainian side of the Kerch Strait, in order to establish an accurate assessment of needs for an adequate environmental recovery programme.

Coastal Sensitivity Mapping: to assess the quality of existing coastal sensitivity maps and to gather information on the vulnerability of the environment, in order to propose a set of measures to improve coastal sensitivity maps and information management in emergency situations.

Institutional Assessment: to review the existing legal framework and institutional mechanisms involved in responding to environmental emergencies, taking the oil spill of November 2007 as a demonstration of the ability of the current Ukrainian system to manage such emergencies.

Economic Assessment: to examine the impact of the oil spill on the local and national economies, by evaluating the direct and indirect costs related to the oil spill response and its impacts on local businesses.

The fieldwork in Ukraine took place from 1-26 July 2008, with the Coastal and Marine assessment team inspecting impacted sites and collecting samples of water, sediment and bio-organisms. Samples were then transported for analysis in a UK laboratory. The Institutional and Economic assessment team simultaneously conducted meetings with local stakeholders and affected populations. Following the fieldwork and laboratory phases, the final Ukraine Post-Disaster Needs Assessment report was published in Ukraine in November 2008.

The PDNA report details the findings of the assessment and provides a series of concrete recommendations to improve oil spill preparedness and response in Ukraine. Recommendations are particularly targeted at strengthening strategic policy, contingency planning, information management, environmental monitoring and assessment, and waste management.

The study concludes that although the toxicity of the released oil was low, the immediate impact was significant. The development of contingency plans in accordance with best international practice is therefore a principal recommendation of the report. In addition, complete clean-up of the large quantities of oil-contaminated shoreline material found along Kerch Strait is considered a high priority to minimize risks to wildlife and human well-being.

Links:

Community Civil Protection Mechanism Report: Ukraine Oil Spill in Kerch Strait, Black Sea, December 2007