By Kiana Wilburg
Once a request is made to the Regional Marine Pollution Emergency, Information and Training Centre (REMPEITC), Guyana would be able to use its technology to assist in the aerial surveillance and satellite monitoring of spills.
This is noted in the draft National Oil Spill Contingency Plan for which a final consultation was held yesterday, at the Herdmanston Lodge by the Civil Defence Commission (CDC).
The draft plan, which was reviewed by representatives from several Government agencies, notes that real time data of the environment is critical to informing the response strategies that would be employed. As such, REMPEITC’s technology would be valuable to the monitoring process.
Kaieteur News understands that REMPEITC’s, which was established in 1995, is largely funded by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
It exists to assist countries in the wider Caribbean region to prevent and respond to pollution in the marine environment through developing and assessing national and multilateral contingency plans, training and workshops, technical support and consultancy, and public awareness.
At the opening of the workshop yesterday, CDC Head, Colonel Kester Craig, noted that following the consultations with representatives from the Finance Ministry, Coast Guard, Guyana Fire Service, Energy Department, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the commentary received will be incorporated into the draft plan along with those received from the IMO, and then presented to Cabinet for review by November 1.
Speaking to the years of planning that went into the final document, Colonel Craig reminded that the first draft of the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan was developed by the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) in collaboration with the US Coast Guard.
This draft, he said, was later updated by the Maritime Administrative Department to incorporate guidelines from the International Maritime Organization and other international standards.
Last January, Colonel Craig said that the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) established the National Oil Spill Contingency Planning Working Group with the aim of ensuring that focused attention was given to the review, updating and finalising of the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan, as well as the establishment of the systems, which would be outlined in the plan to ensure effective and efficient oil spill management in Guyana.
Expounding further, Colonel Craig said that membership of the Working Group comprised representatives from Civil Defence Commission, Environmental Protection Agency, Guyana Energy Agency, Maritime Administrative Department, Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, Department of Energy and the Guyana Defence Force’s Coast Guard.
He said that this Working Group met on a weekly basis for a period of about five months. He said that the diligence of this Working Group is what led to the development of an updated draft plan, which he hopes will be finalised by October 31.
Additionally, Colonel Craig said that the draft has been reviewed by colleagues of the US Coast Guard and REMPEITC-Caribe. He said that they are continuously providing feedback on the draft Plan.
The CDC Head said that other significant efforts thus far undertaken towards the finalisation of the plan, included a joint national workshop on contingency planning and the implementation of the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation (OPRC Convention) hosted by the CDC in collaboration with the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations Regional Coordinating Unit for the Caribbean Environment Programme UNEP-CAR/RCU and RAC/REMPEITC-Caribe on March 18 – 20, 2019.
Craig said that this workshop saw the commencement of the process towards the development of Global Improvement Programme Implementation Plan for Guyana which outlines the timeline and main activities to be undertaken by state entities in ensuring that effective systems are in place for oil spill management at the national level.
He said that this process was completed at a follow-up workshop on May 8, 2019. It was also hosted by the CDC.
The CDC Head said that the draft contingency plan outlines critical roles and responsibilities for agencies in oil spill response both onshore and offshore. He also said that the CDC has been identified as the Competent National Authority for Oil Spill Management, and as such, has overall responsibility for response to oil spill emergencies.
Craig stressed that it is the CDC, which has the authority to make and implement decisions to mitigate the impacts of oil spill.
As for the Maritime Administrative Department, he said that this government body has been named the National Focal Point for an offshore spill, while the Guyana Energy Agency will be looking at onshore activities, and, in turn, will have responsibilities for coordinating the operational response, including the establishment of relevant Operations Centres in the event of a spill.
Kaieteur News understands that the finalisation of the contingency plan will be crucial in contributing towards the country’s capacity for sustainable oil exploration and production in 2020 and beyond, as it will establish and empower agencies to effect their roles in response to any oil spill to minimise impacts and losses.