Marine pollution is widely recognised as one of the three major threats to our oceans, along with habitat destruction and over-exploitation of living marine resources. Oil spills, chemicals spills, and plastics spilled from ships and pumped from land-based sources, cause detrimental ecological, socio-economic, and cultural impacts.
The importance of coastal and marine environments to every aspect of the livelihood of Pacific communities cannot be overstated, and the impacts from marine pollution are a major concern for Pacific Island peoples.
Our ocean connects us, and events in one area can have significant implications for other areas, as pollutants and contaminants are carried from their sources by ocean currents throughout the region.
An interactive Deep Dive session on Oil Spill Preparedness and Response held at the Clean Pacific Roundtable, explored the broad marine spill risks associated with the shipping industry operating in the Pacific Ocean.
The session discussions informed the participants of the best practices in oil spill preparedness and response, including contingency planning processes, and provisioning of commensurate response capability. The session provided a summary of the existing framework arrangement for Pacific Island countries and territories to access international response for oil and chemical spill incidents.
To enhance the capability of Pacific Island countries under the Pacific Regional Marine Spill Contingency Plan 2019 (PACPLAN) Oil Spill Response Limited (OSRL), and SPREP, with funding support from New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and technical support from Maritime NZ (MNZ) have an agreed OSRL-SPREP framework, to efficiently increase oil spill response capability for Pacific islands countries and territories.
This framework provides States with direct access to OSRL’s global oil spill response resources, in the event of an oil spill incident or imminent threat of an incident.
OSRL is an international industry-funded cooperative which exists to respond to oil spills, wherever in the world they may occur, by providing preparedness, response and subsea well source control services.
“We are wholly owned by most of the environmentally responsible oil, gas and energy organisations, and our membership represents the majority of global oil production”, commented Mr Darren Waterman, the Regional Director OSRL.
Mr Waterman highlighted during the Deep Dive session that with over 35 years of experience in responding to over 400 oil spills, OSRL aims to provide expert impartial advice based on sound science, and unsurpassed experience to their members, who represent organisations covering the breadth of the oil supply chain, and include a number of national governments, who gain access to OSRL’s capability in order to supplement national level resources.
Participants were informed that while the average number of spills are decreasing, risks are present due to the increasing frequency and severity of weather events, which are also reducing the resilience of many marine ecosystems and individual species. He commented that its not ‘if’ an oil spill incident will occur but ‘when’.
Other risk factors discussed included long term sustained growth in global chemical production and shipment, increasing shipment of plastic feedstock (nurdles) with potential for marine pollution, the wider range of fuel oils available requiring a different blend of spill response techniques, and increases in container vessels and number of merchant ships operating globally – a predicted increase of 6.5 percent in the next five years.
“There are four critical elements to effective preparedness for an oil spill incident: well-developed plans, adequate resources, competent personal, and regular exercises and training,” said Mr James Tan the Industry Engagement Lead of OSRL.
Mr Tan added that the overall objective is always to develop a capability to effectively react to a spill and sustain an ongoing response that is proportionate to the risk. This capability requires access to suitable equipment, sufficient logistics, and component, trained responders supported by proven, exercised plans.
“This is a cyclical process that should remain active over the lifetime of an operation and a reliable system of review and maintenance will ensure the planning remains relevant and appropriate to changing levels of risk as an organisation matures or evolves” he added.
Pacific island countries that intend to improve the level of national response preparedness by accessing the OSRL-SPREP framework were encouraged to have further meaningful interactions with SPREP and OSRL.
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