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Marine Operations

Environmental Management System (EMS)

Environmental Management System (EMS) is a framework for managing environmental risks and ensuring continual improvement. It uses a Plan/Do/Check/Act cycle.

Plan, Do, Check, Act

The Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle

The Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle

  1. Plan

    Establish priority work for the year by reviewing regulations, ranking environmental aspects, and creating Environmental Management Plans (EMPs).

  2. Do

    Reduce environmental impacts by working with the EMS Team to complete priority work outlined in the Environmental Management Plans (EMPs). Tasks include updating procedures, changing practices, improving training, visiting ships, and researching new technology to manage environmental risk.

  3. Check

    Assess progress of priority work during quarterly EMS Team Meetings; complete annual EMS and Compliance Audits; track corrective actions; monitor and measure work while identifying opportunities for improvement to utilize in the next planning stage.

  4. Act

    Conduct Management Reviews to inform senior leaders of environmental impact and efforts to reduce those impacts; solicit leadership input for future planning and recommendations for continual improvement.

Policy & Regulations

Executive Orders (EO) 13423 and 13514 requires all Federal Agencies to establish and maintain an Environmental Management System (EMS). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Operations (MO) is committed to protecting the environment and maintaining a safe and healthy workplace. MO has established an EMS, based on the ISO 14001 standard, for ship and shore-based operations. MO’s fundamental goals are outlined in OMAO 0110A: Marine Operations Safety and Environmental Statement (OMAO Form 0110A , pdf, 265.62 KB) , which expresses commitment to ensure a safe and healthy workplace, maintain compliance, reduce pollution and continuously improve. A successful EMS requires the commitment of all personnel supporting the fleet.

EMS Team

The Environmental Management Team identifies priority work, communicates environmental regulations, and supports Environmental Management Plans (EMPs) work completion. The Team is led by the EMS Coordinator and includes at least one representative from each branch or division in Marine Operations. The EMS Coordinator guides the team and maintains the EMS program. Team members identify EMPs that fall within the scope of their job responsibilities and take on tasks essential to supporting the EMS. The EMS Team meets quarterly to assess and discuss progress of priority work. Contact the EMS Coordinator for a list of team members.

Aspect Inventory & Ranking

Environmental aspects are Marine Operation activities that have a significant impact on the environment, are regulated and are within our control to manage. The EMS Team, with guidance from the EMS Coordinator, identifies and ranks the environmental aspects by assigning numeric values according to the Ranking Criteria Chart. Each aspect is ranked in four categories: Regulatory Impacts and Emerging Requirements, Health and/or Environmental Risk, potential to adverse impact Mission Operations, and Feasibility and/or Opportunities (see Ranking Criteria Chart for more details). Ranking prioritizes environmental work to determine where to focus effort for maximum results. Aspects with high scores are deemed significant aspects and will be managed via EMPs for the next fiscal year. In the past, a significant aspect for Marine Operations included Spill Preparedness; Hazardous Material Management; and Green Fleet Initiatives.

Environmental Management Plan

Environmental Management Plans (EMPs) document objectives and targets for each significant aspect, and describe actions that are necessary to reduce environmental impacts. Objectives are broad goals within which we set specific targets. Targets are detailed performance indicators; they are specific, measureable, attainable, relevant and time bound. Progress is tracked and reported during EMS Team Meetings and Management Reviews. For example, Marine Operations EMP for Green Fleet included the Objective: promote energy efficiency onboard ships; Target: 50% of the Fleet to utilize LED lighting fixtures by the end of the fiscal year.

The EMS Team reviews drafted EMPs and senior leadership approves the work each year.


Audits ensure continual improvement. There are two types of audits: compliance audits assess compliance with laws and conformance audits to assessing adherence of ISO 14001.

Compliance audits

Ships are audited for compliance with environmental laws by the OMAO Fleet Inspection Team. Shore side facilities are audited for compliance with environmental laws by the NOAA Environmental Compliance and Safety Assessment System (NECSAS) every three years.

Conformance Audits

The EMS is audited for conformance with ISO 14001 by internal audits conducted by Marine Operations personnel and external audits conducted by an outside party. The audit process identifies best management practices and opportunities for improvement. Audit results are briefed to the EMS Team and at Management Review meetings. Self-assessments and audits are essential for fulfilling Marine Operation’s commitment to continual improvement.

Management Review

Audits ensure continual improvement. There are two types of audits: compliance audits assess compliance with laws and conformance audits to assessing adherence of ISO 14001.

Environmental Procedure

The EMS Administrative Procedures outline MO EMS conformance requirements to ISO 14001 and provide the framework for implementation. Procedures are reviewed during the audit process and updated every 3 years.

NOAA Environmental Administrative Procedures

  • 0101-02 - Document Management System
  • 0110 - Safety & Environmental Management Systems
  • 0110A - Safety & Environmental Management Policy
  • 0701-11 - Environmental Management System Planning
  • 0201-02 – EMS and Environmental Audit & Evaluation
  • 0110-04 – Commanding Officer’s Management Review
  • 0110-05 – EMS Management Review
  • 0701-06 – SOPEP/Non-Tank Vessel Response Plan

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Reviewed: June 1, 2016. Contact us with page issues.

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