Agreement on Arctic marine oil pollution

Official title: Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic (MOSPA)

Subject category:
Marine / Oceans
Type of agreement / instrument:
Legally-binding treaty
  • Signed by Canada: May 15, 2013 (at the Arctic Council Ministerial meeting in Kiruna, Sweden).
  • Ratified by Canada: February 13, 2014 (in force).
  • Ratifications - Although workshops and exercises have been conducted under the “Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic” since 2014, the formal ratification process was completed in late March 2016.
Lead & partner departments:
Canadian Coast Guard
Global Affairs Canada, Transport Canada, Canada Energy Regulator, and Environment and Climate Change Canada
For further information:
Web links:
Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic
Canadian Coast Guard Inquiry Centre
Compendium edition:
February 2022
Reference #:

Plain language summary

The objective of this Agreement is to increase cooperation and coordination among Arctic countries to increase the readiness and response to oil spills in order to protect Arctic marine and coastal environments. 

Some commitments under the Agreement include providing mutual assistance to other countries as needed, promoting the exchange of important information to improve the success of response operations and carrying out joint efforts on training and exercises in the Arctic environment.


The objective of the Agreement is to strengthen emergency cooperation and coordination of Arctic oil spill response operations amongst the eight Arctic States (Canada, Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russian Federation, Sweden, and the United States).

Key elements

Key elements of the Agreement include commitments to: provide mutual assistance in the event that an Arctic oil spill exceeds one nation’s capacity to respond; undertake appropriate monitoring activities to identify oil spills in areas within a Party’s national jurisdiction; promote cooperation and coordination amongst the Parties by endeavouring to carry out joint exercises and training; promote the exchange of information that could improve the effectiveness of response operations; and, conduct a joint review of activities undertaken during a coordinated response operation.

To assist with implementation of the Agreement, non-legally binding operational guidelines, country-specific competent national authority, and contact information are included as Appendices to the Agreement. 

Expected results

The Agreement aims to increase collective capacity in spill response operations since it is recognized that, at present, an Arctic spill of any significant magnitude may exceed any one Arctic State’s ability to manage on its own.

Canada’s involvement

Canada was an active and constructive participant throughout the negotiation process and is pleased with the Agreement.  The Agreement corresponds well with Canadian priorities in the Arctic. It continues to make an important contribution to advancing Canada’s Arctic and Northern Policy Framework, in particular the elements related to promoting social and economic development and protecting our environmental heritage. 

Canada is Chair of the Arctic Council’s Emergency Prevention, Preparedness, and Response Working Group (EPPR) and is Chair of the Marine Environmental Response (MER) Expert Group. The group meets twice a year to advance shared objectives; collaborate on environmental best practices, and discuss collaborative projects being advanced intersessionally.

Results / progress


In March 2018, the Marine Environmental Response (MER) Experts Group conducted its third tabletop exercise in Oulu Finland.  The MER has also developed exercise guidance documentation based on lessons learned from multiple exercises involving all eight MOSPA nations

In October 2020 and April 2021, the policy-oriented EPPR collaborated with the operations-oriented Arctic Coast Guard Forum to conduct joint exercises. The  Arctic Guardian Exercise series delved deeply into Requests for Assistance (RFA) protocols under the Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic (MOSPA).

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