Australian Maritime Safety Authority

Environmental, scientific and technical information

Specialist expertise

Spill response requires large amounts of information analysis and advice, and relies on a diversity of technical expertise often sourced from outside the agency controlling the response.


Environment, science and technical (ES&T) functions and roles are identified in spill response management structures. Roles should be established and filled based on the functions required, the size and complexity of the response, the skill set of individuals and the jurisdictional/agency arrangements.

A number of technically competent people may be used to fill various roles within a complex response. To prepare people to fill the roles, a jurisdiction may also appoint an Environment and Science Coordinator (ESC).

ES&T experts may fill any of the following roles:

  • Specialist ES&T advisor to the Incident Controller (IC) or Incident Management Team (IMT) - to provide clear, balanced and timely advice on any or all aspects of the ES&T response functions, including:
    • spill and environmental parameters
    • values, risks and priorities for protection
    • input to response options
    • contributing input to and interpreting output from decision support tools, such as modelling and NEBA
  • Specialist roles or unit coordinator roles within the intelligence functions – for example:
    • environment
    • technical advice
    • situational awareness
    • mapping
    • modelling and prediction
  • Technical advisor within the planning, intelligence or operations functions, acting as an on-site environmental advisor with a view to minimising environmental harm from response actions.

The ES&T Network

ES&T expert response functions, roles and positions often require diverse and significant technical capability, and may need to be sustained throughout an extended response. Few, if any response agencies have all the needed expertise, so a national group of skilled and capable people has been established to support each other, called the ES&T Network. Network members come from government agencies across all jurisdictions, from the ports, maritime and petroleum sectors, from academia and research organisations, and from the education, commercial and consulting sectors. Current membership stands at around 100.

The ES&T Network members are highly skilled and professional scientists and technicians, however, most are part-time in their response and planning roles. The National Plan provides professional development opportunities to the network members through an annual workshop, technical masterclasses and other activities to share skills and experiences and maintain and improve technical currency.

If you want to join, or contribute to, the ES&T Network, contact AMSA for more details.

ES&T skills and resources – the life of a spill

Although every spill is different, the skills and resources required to address these tend to be reasonably consistent.

Spills and responses tend to follow a predictable path, even if the order or duration of the various phases may change based on context and circumstance. Below are the 9 phases someone in an ES&T role might recognise prior to, during and after a spill incident and response.

  1. Before the incident – preparing yourself; getting your technical grab-bag ready; developing and testing the contingency plan you will operate under.
  2. Clarifying the incident – developing situational awareness of the incident and early response, and contributing to the early Incident Action Plan (IAP).
  3. Getting established – understanding and working to the plans (contingency and IAP), assessing the risks, what does the IC/IMT really want and planning the forward work.
  4. Making decisions – responding to what you know, are finding or are presented with, making recommendations/decisions and doing the urgent stuff.
  5. Project phase – transitioning to the broader response, cleaning and waste management projects and programme; contributing to the more consistent IAP; recognising that there are multiple parallel programmes, timescales and outcomes.
  6. Scaling down – when to scale down or stop the response - endpoint criteria and processes.
  7. Essential paperwork – reporting; recording; archiving; claims; sign-off.
  8. Going home – demobilisation; and post-spill and response monitoring.
  9. The aftermath the after action reviews and inquiries.

For each phase, the ES&T professional will need to know:

  • key contacts
  • likely responsibilities
  • expected actions
  • resources required
  • any forms/checklists and guidelines.

Planning and preparedness resources

Research and development

The National Plan has and continues to support research and development, relevant to Australian interests. At present the R&D Strategy is undergoing review. Previous research has included:

Links for responders 

Further reading

For further information or changes to any of the above documents contact Marine Environment Protection.

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