Can your work make a positive impact in the world? In this last episode of our Diversity series, Yow Lih Hern, our Senior Consultant shares how his role in OSRL provided him opportunities to shape a nation’s oil spill response capability building! With the support of multi-expertise across the OSRL organisation, Lih Hern embarks on a journey that will culminate with the development of cross-border national contingency plans. He also offers his views on how the scope of work for oil spill contingency planning for government authorities differs from those for industry operators.
Watch the audio podcast below or read the transcript below.
Q1: Can you tell us about your recent work with government authorities? How do you source for the wide range of skills and knowledge required to support the delivery of the projects?
I will start with the most recent one which is our work with the Cambodia government. We collaborated with PEMSEA to organise a workshop on national contingency planning for the authority to write their national contingency plan. It's a collaboration between different departments. I was there. We had James (Tan) from Engagement, we had Dion (Darren Soyza) from Response and we even had Nai Ming from GI-SEA to help because of his expertise in the type of the topics that we are going to talk about.
Q2: What is the purpose of the workshop?
The purpose of the workshop is to provide some background and good practices on topics that will give them a step-by-step guide to processes and elements that will be required when writing their national contingency plan. For example, we provided (presentation on) The International Conventions. Nai Ming was the one who spoke about this due to his work with a lot of governments in the region and we talked about Tiered Preparedness because that is the basis to national planning. We had lots of small topics such as risk assessment. We also spoke about different response options; how they can have exercises and training centered around good practices etc.
Q3: Was this a challenging project? How was it different from other projects?
Our usual clients are from the Industry, so we look from an industry point of view but this time, we are looking into good practices from a national planning point of view. We know that our UK colleagues have had similar workshops with the government. They provided us with useful materials to build upon and customise for the context of the workshop. I think we only have about 2 weeks to prepare the material. So yes, we put everything in a very short time frame. Thanks to all the collaboration and support from various departments.
Q4: Could you highlight another government project that could give us an insight into the scale of work involved?
Oh, definitely. I am excited to share another project that we have been doing in the past two years. That is the Laos Capability Building Project. It's a two-year or two and half years ongoing project with the Government of Laos. This is another platform that we can collaborate with the government in the early stage of capability building, shaping the direction and incorporating good practices. This project started in 2019. It consists of multiple perspectives and deliverables of varying levels. High level deliverables include institutional recommendations e.g. identifying the gaps in the regulations. We are not policy makers, so we can only let them know that they need institutional backing to embark on the capability journey. We also look into their systems and processes in the national authority. e.g. Do they have a system to approve oil spill contingency plans? Do they have the processes to ensure port operators have the right level of preparedness and capability? We conducted physical survey to all the ports and terminals in the country. We want to assess the risk in the country, what is happening in the country and the minimum preparedness or minimum response capability that each of their ports should have and so on. These tie back to their regulation, because if we provide such recommendations then they can institutionalise these into the regulations and that will help with enforcement later.
Q5: How do you ensure that the effectiveness of the plan?
We selected two pilot ports for demonstration. We had to prepare emergency response plan and oil spill contingency plan, choose the equipment and conduct training for the two ports – equipment training, oil spill training, IMS training so they have the process and capability to deploy the equipment when needed. The last stage is the cross-country collaboration mechanism. Laos and Thailand share huge borders. A large part of the Mekong River is shared between Laos and Thailand and they need a mechanism to enable both countries to work collaboratively in the event of oil spill. We are proposing some kind of mechanism on how they can work together based on existing regional framework that we can make reference to and then we will practise with exercises. It's like approaching the finishing line after two years. So glad that we managed to make a difference to the country.
Q6: How has Covid added to the challenges?
Because of Covid, we couldn't travel, and we had to convert to remote training. Presentations and meetings had to be converted to remote setting. We have been monitoring the situation and the travel restrictions are still there so we couldn't really travel. And yes, they have been quite understanding, probably because of our good relationship and good quality of services. Doing remotely actually helps with resourcing. I had help from different departments for the delivery. We managed to get Response to share their experience and present a case study on inland exercise because this is the environment they operate in. The project has an emergency response element and so I got quite a number of colleagues with such background and experience to help in this element. I think one of the deliverables was to talk about how they can approve the emergency response plan. I had Richard from the UK to help and even Lucy and Rosie as well. So yeah, we had a lot of resources from other apartments.