On the 6 July the MCA Code of Practice for Vessels Engaged in Oil Recovery Operations, the “Black Code" (including Merchant Shipping Notice No: M.1663) was withdrawn in favour of "Alternative Arrangements to provide an equivalent level of safety and environmental protection". These alternative arrangements are set out in a new Marine Guidance Note (MGN 457(M)) and its Corrigendum.

The new Marine Guidance Note should be considered by all Ship owners and operators of vessels, of any size, engaged in oil recovery operations; and those who may commission vessels to engage in such activity (including Ports and Harbours) and policies updated as required.

It is considered that the prescriptive requirements placed on operators of oil recovery vessels in the Black Code have the potential to be counterproductive to the intended outcome of recovering oil after a spill. The aim of its withdrawal is to ease the mandatory provisions in favour of an improved risk-based approach, and is an opportunity for sensible safety and marine pollution control measures in what may be difficult and ill-defined circumstances.

The new MGN 457 (M) and its Corrigendum can be accessed here.