A collision between a barge and an oil tanker caused the release of 10,500 tons of light crude oil into the Yellow Sea off the west coast of the Republic of Korea in December 2007. There were potentially serious long-term implications for livelihoods, the environment and wildlife in the area. More than 300 km of coastline was affected. The Korean authorities acted swiftly in responding to the emergency. The Government also accepted a joint offer of assistance from the JEU and the European Commission’s Monitoring and Information Centre. The joint assessment team’s main objective was to assess the need for international assistance and equipment for clean-up operations. Good coordination and considerable effort on the part of the stakeholders meant that the majority of beaches had already been cleaned. The team therefore determined that no further international assistance was required to aid clean-up operations.
This case presents a model of coordination between the UN and the European Commission in environmental emergencies. Coordination started at the onset of the emergency and culminated in a joint offer of assistance and deployment of a joint team. On the ground, experts used the same on-site coordination mechanism, worked as a team, and made the best possible use of assets and donor resources. This experience has set the standards high for other types of cooperation between the UN and other regional bodies. “Collaboration with our partners is an essential feature of the JEU’s work; it leads to better results, creates synergies, and saves resources” says Roy Brooke, former Humanitarian Affairs Officer with the JEU. “With each collaborative mission there are lessons learned which increase the effectiveness of future responses.”