This incident was initially a purely maritime matter. Search And Rescue (SAR) operations were conducted at sea, initially in the French zone of the English Channel, until the SOSREP gave directions for salvage actions in accordance with the procedures described in the Mancheplan and NCP. The setting up of response units and the Environment Group were also in accordance with the NCP.
However, with the beaching of the vessel so close to land, the incident acquired a substantial ‘land’ component. Similar incidents have been known to happen in the past. However the Napoli incident was on a much larger scale with the potential hazard not being only from the oil, but also from the dangerous goods on board the vessel.
Due to the perceived potential risk to the public, a major incident plan procedure was invoked under the lead of the Police. There were therefore two response structures involved in the MSC Napoli incident: the SOSREP, with the SCU and the MRC for marine response and the Police and Local Resilience Forum (LRF) for land response. Each organisation structure was valid for its purpose and both ran almost separately, side-by-side.
There was obviously a need for co-operation and information flow between the two structures, but no need for one to be dominant to the other. Because this situation had not previously been exercised, and because there was little knowledge of the marine aspect within the land-based organisations, there was some initial confusion about roles and responsibilities. However, these initial problems were rapidly overcome and a combined organisation structure was evolved.