Oil spill response 90% completed

DPI, Guyana, Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Guyana’s National Oil Spill Response Contingency Plan which is ninety percent complete is being drafted by local experts in key sectors.

In an exclusive interview with the Department of Public Information (DPI), Director General of the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), Lieutenant Colonel Kester Craig explained that the planning, drafting of the plan was done by local agencies with some technical advice from international bodies.

“We decided to use our in-house experts within the country because these persons understand their roles and responsibilities better than those (international) experts when it comes to developing a plan that is tailored to Guyana and is specific to our environment,” he said.

Consultation development of the oil spill response plan commenced in 2017 with technical support from the United States Coast Guard. In February of this year, more emphasis was placed on the development of the plan and a National Oil Spill Planning Committee. The committee comprised representatives from the CDC, Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, Guyana Energy Agency, Maritime Administration. Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Since the establishment, the team has met regularly on Tuesdays to identify key roles, responsibilities and to craft the plan.

“We are about 90 percent complete and we are now making final edits and developing some of the annexes.”

Craig explained that the annexes in the plan will be used for guidance on the types of resources, contact information and call-out procedures. The DG emphasised that the most critical aspect in the development of the strategy was the planning process.

“Going through the planning process with key stakeholder would ensure that people know what their roles are,” he stressed.

The CDC has already begun procuring oil spill response equipment. According to Lt. Col. Craig, there approximately four containers containing millions of dollars’ worth of response equipped stored at the commission’s warehouse in Timehri, East Bank Demerara.

“We are now working with the main agencies to identify some of the key resources and where they will be deployed because once something happens, you want to have almost immediate response and having the resources deployed and having persons trained in the use of these resources is very essential in responding, containing and minimising the impact of an oil spill,” he explained.

Craig also related that as part of the plan, volunteers are being trained and equipped to respond in the unlikely event of an oil spill on or offshore.

It was noted that operators in Guyana’s basin are also required to have an oil spill plan which must be approved by the CDC. In the event of a spill offshore, each operator is responsible for responding and managing that spill.

The Government of Guyana and its agencies are required to ensure that there is an enabling environment for effective response in place. Lt Col. Craig explained mechanisms would have to be in place to expedite procedures such as customs and immigration in the event international assistance is required to manage an oil spill.

Before the end of October, the CDC will host a broader stakeholder engagement.