The coast guard keeps an eye on the sea

Coast guard

General Emergency and Intervention Plan North Sea


United States

 The Belgian part of the North Sea measures 3454 km², comparable to the size of a province. The North Sea boasts a number of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Windmill parks, an evolving fleet, transmigrants, … create new challenges and new emergency situations.  

The capsizing of the Herald of Free Enterprise off the coast of Zeebrugge in 1987 motivated the draft of a specific contingency plan for the North Sea. In this plan the roles of the different rescue services involved are established. The coordination of the operations is in the hands of the governor of West-Flanders province. The contingency plan for the North Sea had to ensure a better cooperation and more efficient action-taking in case of incidents at sea.

In 2006, regulation concerning emergency planning was renewed and a new Royal Decree was published. This resulted in a redrafting of the contingency plan for the North Sea and a new moniker for the plan, namely “General Emergency and Intervention Plan North Sea”.

In every emergency plan, the tasks of the rescue services are divided amongst five groups or disciplines:

  • Discipline 1: rescue operations

  • Discipline 2: medical, sanitary and psychosocial assistance

  • Discipline 3: police

  • Discipline 4: logisitic support

  • Discipline 5: information

The General Emergency and Intervention Plan is complemented by Specific Emergency and Intervention Plans for particular circumstances, such as an emergency plan Terrorism and an emergency plan Mass Rescue. In very exceptional cases, a so-called ‘federal phase’ will be launched. These cases will predominantly be situated in the security domain (hijacking, terrorism, bomb attack, …). In such circumstances, the minister of Interior takes over coordinating and management duties.

The General Emergency and Intervention Plan North Sea differs from the ‘classic’ emergency plans in several areas. Standards for scaling-up are different and the disciplines for incidents at sea are not entirely comparable to those for incidents at land. Specific procedures apply, not only with regard to notification and alarm, but also for handling incidents.
That is why the General Emergency and Intervention Plan North Sea, which was last updated in 2014, is now being renewed, bringing it in line with current legislation and emergency planning procedures. This is being done by a working group, in which most of our coast guard partners take part.

The governor of West-Flanders province coordinates the operations detailed in The General Emergency and Intervention Plan North Sea. The renewed plan will be submitted for approval to the Coast Guard policy-making board after which it can be signed by the governor.

KB van 22 mei 2019 (betreffende de noodplanning en het beheer van noodsituaties op het gemeentelijk en provinciaal niveau en betreffende de rol van de burgemeesters en de provinciegouverneurs in geval van crisisgebeurtenissen en -situaties die een coördinatie of een beheer op nationaal niveau vereisen)