PollutantsPolicy recommendationsOceanProtection of the Arctic Marine Environment22 May 2014A new report from Working Group PAME provides guidance on options to promote improved safety culture and robust safety management systems in the Arctic offshore oil and gas industry. As interest in Arctic offshore petroleum resources continues to grow, there has been growing concern about the potential effects that an increase in such activities could have on the Arctic marine environment and the ways of life of indigenous people and local communities.Arctic Council Ministers recognized in 1996 that oil and gas operations in the Arctic offshore pose potential harmful effects to the marine environment. The Arctic Council’s Working Group on the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) was subsequently tasked to develop “guidelines for offshore petroleum activities in the Arctic, in particular guidelines for timely and effective measures for protection of the Arctic environment.” As interest in Arctic offshore petroleum resources continues to grow, there has been growing concern about the potential effects that an increase in such activities could have on the Arctic marine environment and the ways of life of indigenous people and local communities. At the recent meeting of Senior Arctic Officials in Yellowknife, Canada, a significant report from PAME on safety management systems and safety culture for Arctic offshore oil and gas operations was approved. See the full report here: Arctic Offshore Oil and Gas Guidelines: Systems Safety Management and Safety Culture The report is primarily aimed at providing guidance to Arctic states on available options to promote improved safety culture and robust safety management systems in the Arctic offshore oil and gas industry. It tries to establish a common understanding of the goals and processes for managing major risk elements, and it outlines targeted actions or approaches which can act to guide Arctic national and regional authorities in regulating or influencing critical human and organizational safety systems. In the offshore oil and gas industry, safety management systems and safety culture are primarily defined, implemented, monitored and controlled by the operator. Nevertheless, governments and regulators also play a key role in influencing improved performance and positive safety culture. Regulators must help to establish what expectations and behavior constitute a “positive safety culture”. The report from PAME includes a comparison of the regulatory regimes of Canada, Greenland, Norway, and the United States. It draws in part upon investigations of the Deepwater Horizon / Macondo well incident, which yielded many urgent recommendations for improving safety in the offshore oil and gas industry. It also draws upon the results of two expert workshops. The findings and guidance of the report are relevant and compelling reminders for Arctic states to continuously strengthen and improve their regulation and enforcement of Arctic offshore operations to ensure the protection of the marine environment. Click here to see more on PAME’s work on offshore oil and gas. Click here for a backgrounder on the Arctic Council. Photo: Dave Nakayama / Creative Commons BY / "Strange Comings & Goings in Elliott Bay"