CDC hosts consultation on draft National Oil Spill Contingency Plan

DPI, GUYANA, Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Civil Defence Commission (CDC) today hosted a Stakeholder’s Consultation on the draft National Oil Spill Contingency Plan. Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman assured that Government will spare no effort in preparing for the eventuality of an oil spill.

[From left to right] Preparedness and Response Manager
CDC, Major Sean Welcome, Director, Maritime Safety, MARAD, Capt. John Flores, Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, Environmental Activist, Annette Arjune-Martins, Director General (ag), Lt. Col. Kester Craig, and Executive Director, EPA, Khemraj Parsram.

It is expected that the plan, which is currently in its formative stage, will be finalised within 24 months and exceed the minimum of international standards for oil spill response.

According to the Natural Resources Minister, with each new oil find the need for an Oil Spill Contingency Plan grows exponentially. “We are not speaking only of developing Liza, we’re speaking of developing all the other wells that come in tandem with them.”

While Government is cognisant of the potential risks that come with the new-found petroleum resource, Minister Trotman said it remains equally committed to the protection of the environment.

He noted that “Guyana continues to be a fierce proponent of its [environment] protection internationally.” Every Guyanese, the Minister said, must play a role in the protection of the environment.

Further, the minister said the Contingency Plan is being prepared in accordance with what obtains internationally and with the involvement of key partners such as the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and the United States Coast Guard for which training has commenced.

As a signatory to the United Nations International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation (OPRC), there are certain regulations that will have to be put in place.

“We are not operating in isolation, we are working as a member of an international body of nations each with its own unique circumstances but at the same time there is commonality and we are getting assistance,” he emphasised.

In 2010, Guyana also acceded to the Cartagena Convention and all three of its protocols including the “Protocol Concerning Co-operation in Combating Oil Spills in the Wider Caribbean Region”.

Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman .

Minister Trotman said that a feature of the Sovereign Wealth Fund is ensuring that the environment is properly managed with a percentage of the oil revenues to be placed into the Environmental Trust Fund.

This Fund is already in existence as a requirement under the Environmental Protection Act.

The minister alluded to the Green State Development Strategy (GSDS), which prioritises the protection and preservation of our environment for current and future generations, which has as one of its guiding principles, the Sustainable Management of natural resources.

This includes the entire coastal area where fishing and farming are conducted, as well as the country’s water resources; both freshwater and the offshore marine environment which make up our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The minister made it clear that objective comments and concerns are good but warned that caustic remarks and corrosive statements are destructive.

Meantime, Director General (ag), Civil Defence Commission (CDC), Lt. Col. Kester Craig, whose work was also applauded by the Natural Resources Minister, called on the stakeholders to reflect on how proactive and targeted disaster risk reduction and management measures can play an integral role in reducing negative environmental impacts from the exploitation of natural resources.

Lt. Col. Craig said with the recent oil discovery, the government and other stakeholders involved must not only be prepared for the opportunities, but for the accompanying challenges such as environmental pollution and oil spills.

Recognising the need to have systems and capacity in place to reduce and respond to any eventuality, the Government of Guyana in partnership with ExxonMobil through the CDC, the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Ministry of Natural Resources commenced a series of measures in 2017.

Director General (ag), Lt. Col. Kester Craig.

According to the CDC Director (ag), the consultation “is yet another step in the right direction, where our key stakeholders will be able to critically review the first draft of the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan”.

The Plan aims to implement a framework, which will cater for a coordinated response to potential onshore and offshore oil spills. As such, Lt. Col. Craig implored that the plan “needs to be simple but comprehensive, accessible, readily updatable and reflective of not only the working culture of Guyana but also in line with international standards and best practices”.

A presentation on the Draft National Oil Spill Contingency Plan was made by Director of Maritime Safety, MARAD, Captain John Flores, who was applauded by Minister Trotman for the incremental role he played in the process.

Environmental activist, Annette Arjune-Martins was also commended by the Natural Resources Minister. Both Capt. Flores and Arjune-Martins were described as patriots, “who do what they do not for fame or fortune but for the love of country”.

In 2017, the Ministry of Natural Resources conducted training of personnel from several key agencies and ministries in both theory and practical oil and gas management and oil spill response.

Four containers of oil spill response equipment and accessories including booms, skimmers, dispersant, Personal Protective Kits and more were procured and are presently stored at the CDC’s Alternate National Emergency Operations Centre (ANEOC) at Timehri.

The equipment will soon be pre-positioned at various locations to facilitate easy and timely deployment, should the need arise.


By: Stacy Carmichael