Strengthening Belize’s Oil Spill Response Capabilities

Monday, August 13th, 2018

To discuss Belize’s National Oil Spill Contingency Plan, representatives from various Government and Non-Governmental Organizations, Private Sector, and Academia associated with Disaster Risk Management and Oil Spill Response, engaged in a meeting at the Radisson Fort George Hotel & Marina in Belize City from Wednesday, August 8th to 10th.

The Department of the Environment (DOE) within the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, and Environment & Sustainable Development, and Immigration (MAFFESDI) commenced implementation of the Consultancy to Update and Align the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan of Belize (NOSCP) to meet international standards in August of last year. The overall objective was to strengthen prevention, preparedness and coordinated emergency response nationally for an oil spill event in terrestrial, aquatic and marine environments, and align the plan to meet international standards and comply with the Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation (OPRC).

OCEANA Belize’s Vice President Janelle Chanona stated that stakeholders recognize the value of this plan and they want to see its implementation. “The importance of looking at live threats that we still have in terms of oil spill impact on our maritime and terrestrial (environment), as well as our rivers and coastlines. We are not only transporting fuel, importing and exporting crude, we’re in shipping and getting stuff out to the cayes,”She said. “ So, I think it is important for us participate in these workshops and listen to the conversations happening about this issue, or that God forbid, when an incident happens, that we have the wherewithal to ensure and make sure that we understand how this is going to be planned especially from a budget point of view.”

According to a consultant at the meeting, Dr. Elliott Taylor, the plans give guidelines on how to react to various types oil spill incidents. “It includes notification and reporting procedures – who gets notified and who gets reported. It includes organization – which different entities within the government or industry are going to participate in managing that spill. So, it is spill management organization and the process of responding. It includes response strategies – how are you going to deal with spills on the marine side and how are you going to deal with spills on the land side. Safety and risk assessment – where are the potential spill sources, what would those volumes entail and what are the materials that are handled and the safety precautions that need to take for responders and the public if there is a spill. It includes logistics, so it does speak to communications, transport, supporting a response and not just operational of where skimmers and boom go but actually how you provide support to that whole response. It includes compensation, costs, and tracking and how to recover some of those costs. And it includes a training and exercise program that really sets the path for how the government will practice on a regular basis and train to be prepared.”

Over the past 12 months, the DOE has hosted a national technical working meeting ( September 5-7, 2017) to engage and consult with national technical experts and organizations with responsibilities in the event of an oil spill, a national consultation workshop (February 5-6, 2018) to conduct a technical review of National Oil Spill Contingency Plan Working Draft – Version 1; and has facilitated data collection through field visits and targeted consultations with individual stakeholders to update the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan.

After stakeholders make final revisions to the document, it will then be submitted to cabinet for approval – and once approved, the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan will be added to the national hazard plan under NEMO. It will be standardized for national and international purposes. The DOE will then carry out a number of trainings to build capacity among the stakeholders on how to use and follow the plan. For further information, you can email the DOE at [email protected] or [email protected] or call 822-2548.

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