The Civil Defence Commission (CDC) has operationalised the National Oil Spill Response Plan (NOSRP) and the National Oil Spill Committee, in mobilising contingency plans and policy direction dealing with the management of national oil spill events.
The National Oil Spill Response Plan was drafted in 2018 by the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD) and further strengthened by a working group which was led by the CDC. Last October, it was handed over to Government and the final plan was developed from comprehensive consultations, reviews, testing and support from national stakeholders.
International partners such as the United States Coast Guard and the International Maritime Organisation also played important roles. The inauguration on Tuesday set the pace for the implementation of the plan.
“The Committee is the body that is now mandated to oversee the policy development, revision of the plan, drafting of legislation and regulations, and making recommendations on relevant international conventions that will increase the nation’s capabilities to deal with and minimise incidents of oil spills pollution in our environment,” the CDC said in a statement.
Some of the capacity-building requirements are new and technical, therefore requiring specialised training and appropriate equipment not readily available in Guyana. To this end, the Commission already initiated discussions with the United States of America State Department and Coast Guard for support.
At the launch, Prime Minister, Brigadier (ret’d) Mark Phillips charged the National Oil Spill Committee (NOSC) to be proactive in finding and dealing with potential threats emanating from the oil and gas industry.
“Recognise the individual and institutional responsibilities which have been entrusted upon you, I urge that you prioritise proactivity in both your plans and actions, so that Guyana can aggressively and effectively manage the threats of our oil and gas industry, and attain the fruitful benefits to our economy, citizens and national development.”
Prime Minister Phillips added that notwithstanding the vast potential the oil and gas industry possesses to Guyana’s growth, it brings with it additional environmental risks that must be taken seriously.
“It cannot be ignored that this industry also presents new threats and risks for our nation which need to be effectively managed to ensure that our resources and ecosystems remain safe… This National Oil Spill Committee, therefore, has an immense task at hand, which is to oversee and coordinate the national efforts of ensuring that these negative impacts are avoided at all costs.”
Additionally, the PM called for improved collaboration among stakeholders.
“I urge you to consider the merits of collaborative execution and commence the vital process of establishing strategic partnerships with each other.”
Among the stakeholders present were representatives from the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), Guyana Defence Force (GDF), Ministry of Legal Affairs (MOLA), Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), the Private Sector Commission (PSC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Guyana Marine Conservation Society (GMCS) among other agencies.
Director General of the CDC, Lieutenant Colonel Kester Craig said that the orientation is the first step in the process of operationalising the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan. He said that among the objectives of Tuesday’s meeting was to establish the Committee’s work plan for 2021.
The CDC Director said that throughout the year, the CDC will be conducting several training sessions in addition to prepositioning and testing equipment already acquired.
“Notably, the Commission will be propositioning very soon, three containers of equipment comprising oil containment booms, biological and chemical dispersants, and personal protective equipment to the Guyana Defence Force Coast Guard to assist in the execution of their duties outlined in the Plan.”
The Head of the CDC added that there is still need for capacity building, but some of the technical necessities to do so are not readily available locally, while some still need to be identified.
He said in that regard, the CDC has already initiated discussions with the US State Department and the US Coast Guard to assist with the conduct of a capacity needs assessment. The CDC also intends to seek further support from the International Maritime Organisation and the Regional Maritime Pollution Emergency, Information and Training Centre.