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Port operations in emergency situations


An emergency is defined in the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 as:

  • An event or situation that threatens serious damage to human welfare or the environment
  • War or terrorism that threatens serious damage to the UK

The occurrence of an emergency within the PLA's area of jurisdiction may result in potentially major adverse environmental impacts, including on the biodiversity of the river. This might be direct damage stemming from the emergency situation itself, or because urgent but environmentally damaging steps have to be taken to avert or limit adverse effects on human life or infrastructure. In these circumstances action will be required to mitigate negative impacts as far as possible. In practice, in any emergency situation the PLA will be one of a number of organisations involved in dealing with it.  

The PLA’s Emergency Manual provides the strategic basis for dealing with emergencies within or affecting the PLA area of jurisdiction. The PLA maintains Incident Action Sheets that set out procedures to be followed in a number of emergency situations. Any emergency holds some potential for adverse impacts on biodiversity, but those with particular potential to do so (possibly in combination) are:


Chemical Pollution

Collision with vessel/shore installation

Fire/explosion - vessel

Fire/explosion - ashore


Hazardous substances washed ashore

Oil pollution



For each of these situations a briefing note highlighting the main conservation considerations is available. 


The conservation briefing notes should be incorporated into the Emergency Manual for consideration and also incorporated into the OIl Spill Contingency Plan and associated Oil Spill Sensitivity Mapping.


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