This paper summarises the approaches used for desk-based sensitivity mapping and the alignment with international best practice guidelines. The primary focus is on available data sources for developing a robust baseline database and how these can be made accessible through interactive Geographic Information Systems (GIS) tools. The conclusions focus on the benefits of sharing information and key lessons learned for developing these collaboration tools.

Based on the most recent IMO/IPIECA sensitivity mapping guidelines this paper outlines a staged approach to sensitivity assessment. Initial desk-based mapping and sensitivity classification draws on existing data sources and remote sensing interpretation, which subsequently informs more detailed field surveys. This approach enables rapid assessment of potentially sensitive locations to provide an immediate overview of risks, ahead of targeted field assessments to fill data gaps in support of the contingency planning process.

A key tool for successfully implementing these projects has been the use of GIS. In addition to providing the analytic tools and central data and document repository, web-based GIS viewers provide instant access to project data and metadata from any location. Web editing tools enable planners and response personnel to plot and share proposed locations for response resources (e.g. staging areas) during the response planning stage. This approach dramatically reduces reliance on traditional paper mapping during planning stages while still allowing responders to produce field maps for working in a response situation.

In the wake of the Deep-water Horizon incident many oil and gas operators are re-examining their risk exposure with regard to potential accidental oil spill incidents. In many instances this now includes consideration of larger potential impact zones resulting from a worst case oil spill scenario. Key to successful planning is understanding where the potential sensitive coastal and offshore environmental and socio-economic resources are, and communicating these effectively to incident management specialists, regulatory agencies and other stakeholders.

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