Issue details

24/00042 - Contingency contract to provide emergency facilities in the event of a marine pollution incident

Reason for the decision

KCC currently holds a contingency contract with a commercial provider for the provision of a marine pollution response capability (including equipment and personnel) in the event of an marine pollution incident. That contract expires this year, having been previously extended.


Whilst the retainer element of the contract represents relatively small expenditure (less than £5K), if it is required to be called upon then the expenditure is likely to be greater than £1M.



KCC has legal duties to plan and prepare for emergencies which may occur in Kent. The potential for an emergency to occur which results in the pollution of Kent’s coastline is recognised. In relatively recent years there have been incidents that have come close to polluting areas of the Kent coastline, the most recent being the leak from a wreck on the Goodwin Sands in 2022. The location of the county, adjacent to the busiest shipping lane in the world, puts Kent at high risk of such events occurring.


Marine pollution events include pollution from marine / crude / waxy / vegetable oils, other noxious substances, cargo (e.g. timber, such as the Sinegorsk incident), land-based wastewater or sewage, algal blooms, or dead marine wildlife (i.e. whales, dolphins, porpoises or similar).


KCC has historically agreed to undertake a Tier 2 marine pollution response in support of boroughs / district / city councils (who undertake Tier 1 responses). This is a local agreement as there is no legal or regulatory duty upon KCC to cover Tier 2 responses. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency National Contingency Plan refers only to a local authority role in Tier 1 and 2 shoreline clean-up and doesn’t specifically mention county councils or upper tier authorities.


KCC currently holds the existing contract on behalf of coastal borough / district councils (excluding Medway Unitary Authority). The contract allows for KCC to call down elements of it to support any response required to a marine pollution incident. However for future contracts, KCC and the coastal borough / district councils have agreed that all authorities will contribute to the standby cost, and each will have the ability to call on the contract. The cost of activating the contract will also be split between the affected authorities.


Options (other options considered but discarded)

·      Do nothing.

o   This would leave KCC exposed to not meeting its duties to plan, prepare and respond to an incident that threatens the environment of the UK, as defined in the Civil Contingencies Act.

o   It would also lead to significant reputational risk for KCC if there is a significant impact on the environment and / or the economy (e.g. loss of tourist income).


·      Rely on national government, local mutual aid agreements or military support.

o   National government (through the Maritime & Coastguard Agency) has responsibilities for at-sea clean-up operations, but not onshore cleanup.

o   Mutual aid agreements between local authorities are already in place but they are limited in scope and do not provide the capability which would be required.

o   Military Aid to the Civil Authorities (MACA) may be sought in such an incident but it cannot be guaranteed and does not provide the specialist equipment required. MACA also requires that all civil options have been exhausted before it can be undertaken, including the commercial providers who could be contracted under this tender.


How the proposed decision supports the Framing Kent's Future - Our Council Strategy 2022-2026

The decision concerns the provision of infrastructure for the community in the event of an emergency and forms part of KCC’s role in making Kent’s communities safe.


How the proposed decision supports Securing Kent’s Kents Future - Budget Recovery Strategy.pdf

The decision results from a review of an existing contract. The new contract will be of a ‘call off’ nature, allowing KCC to only call off the elements it needs to support its duties. It will also provide the framework to allow partners to call off elements for their own purposes but will provide the means and clarity to ensure that KCC only pays for those elements which it calls off itself.




Decision type: Key

Reason Key: Expenditure or savings of more than £1m;

Decision status: Recommendations Approved

Division affected: (All Division);

Notice of proposed decision first published: 07/05/2024

Decision due: Not before 5th Jun 2024 by Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services
Reason: To allow 28 day notice period required under Exeuctive Decision regulations

Lead member: Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services

Lead director: Rebecca Spore

Department: Growth, Environment & Transport

Contact: Bill Anderson, Director Children's Social Services Email: Email: Tel: 01622 221573.


The proposed decision was considered and endorsed at the Policy and Resources Cabinet Committee on 15 May 2024.

Financial implications: • The annual retainer cost for the current contract is less than £5K, and for the new contract would be lower still as coastal boroughs / district councils would now be contributing financially. • If the contract is called upon, the expenditure will vary greatly depending on the nature and scale of the incident – the clean-up operation from the MV Sea Empress oil spill in Wales 1996 cost £60M (double that when the effects on the economy and environment are considered), but smaller incidents will cost significantly less. • A pollution incident which results in expenditure will represent an unfunded pressure on KCC’s finances which is likely to need to be met from reserves. • For significant incidents of the scale of the MV Sea Empress incident, KCC would require national government support.

Legal implications: The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 defines Kent County Council as a Category 1 responder in relation to emergencies. As a result, KCC has a duty to prepare, plan for, and respond to incidents and emergencies whilst continuing to carry out its own duties and taking action to reduce, control or mitigate the effects of an emergency.

Equalities implications: Equalities implications: • An Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA) has been completed and it is not felt that this decision presents any impact on any of the nine areas specified by KCC. • The KRF contingency plan requires that an equalities impact assessment is carried out in the event of this contract being utilised. Data Protection implications: None - no Data Protection implications are anticipated.