Home / Skip Navigation LinksNews & Media / News / Water and Environment

New risk assessment paves the way to a reduction in maritime pollution

Photo: cowi

The first international risk assessment of marine pollution has been carried out for the North Sea. It shows that new traffic rules can be an effective tool to reduce the risk of accidents and oil-spill in the area's major traffic junction.

The Greater North Sea is one of the busiest and most used areas for maritime activity in the world, and with the ever-increasing competition for space comes an increased risk of accidents and marine pollution.

This has led to the first overall risk assessment for maritime pollution in the area.

The new analysis, BE-AWARE, investigates different methods to reduce the risk of accidents and oil-spill as well as their varying effect and costs.

Moreover, the analysis include the area’s particular marine biological and socio-economic features and their vulnerability to oil exposure.

New traffic rules can reduce risk

One potential action that has been investigated and proven to be effective in various scenarios is a new set of common traffic rules for the ships, a so-called Traffic Separation Scheme to be implemented by all countries in the region. 

"The North Sea countries can use the results to develop their common oil-spill preparedness in a concerted and optimized way, because the project provides a list of prioritized measures for possible future implementation. The measures are prioritized with respect to benefits and their associated costs," says Chief Project Manager Carsten Jürgensen from COWI, who has been the main consultant on the project initiated in 2013.

The project has been co-financed by the European Union, with participation and support from the Bonn Agreement Secretariat and the nine North Sea states: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands and United Kingdom.

Close cross-border cooperation

The BE-AWARE project's success has depended on getting the nine countries to work together and deliver information usable on a regional scale.

"In the end, we believe that this project has improved relations between relevant institutions in the member countries, enhancing common understanding and future cooperation," states Jürgensen.

It is now up to the involved countries to agree on and implement selected tools to reduce the risk of accidents and marine pollution in the North Sea.

PUBLISHED: 29.03.2016


BE-AWARE is short for Bonn Agreement: Area-wide Assessment of Risk Evaluations.

For more information:


LAST UPDATED: 31.03.2017