JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The Government is in the process of reviewing and updating the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan in order to ensure that the country can effectively respond to such an incident.
  • The review is in keeping with the country’s obligations under the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and is being undertaken through the collaborative efforts of the Regional Action Centre/Regional Marine Pollution Emergency and Information Training Centre (RAC/REMPEITC) Caribe, Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), and the Maritime Authority of Jamaica (MAJ).
  • The entities are hosting a workshop at ODPEM’s offices in New Kingston from October 15 to 17.

The Government is in the process of reviewing and updating the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan in order to ensure that the country can effectively respond to such an incident.

The review is in keeping with the country’s obligations under the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and is being undertaken through the collaborative efforts of the Regional Action Centre/Regional Marine Pollution Emergency and Information Training Centre (RAC/REMPEITC) Caribe, Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), and the Maritime Authority of Jamaica (MAJ).

The entities are hosting a workshop at ODPEM’s offices in New Kingston from October 15 to 17.

Speaking to JIS News at Tuesday’s opening session, ODPEM’s Acting Director General, Richard Thompson, said the IMO requires countries to constantly update and revise their contingency plans, noting that Jamaica last conducted a review in 2014.

He said that Caribbean countries, given their geographical location, are vulnerable to oil spills, and a major incident “can literally cripple economies”.

He noted the severe environmental impacts from the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, and the spill from the Exxon Valdez in Alaska in 1989.

“For us, in Jamaica, given the fragility of our marine ecosystem, and the fact that we have created economies around those ecosystems, the aspect of international cruise shipping and also that we are a transhipment point for major oil rigs passing through our territorial waters, it becomes very important that we place critical emphasis on the aspect of oil spill and the kind of disaster that can result,” he said.

“So this workshop is pretty much with a view to look at the processes and to review the Oil Spill Contingency Plan, and at the end of it we should have the necessary information to continue the process of updating the plan,” Mr. Thompson noted.

Director General of MAJ, Rear Admiral Peter Brady, in his remarks, stressed the need for an adequate preparation and response strategy for the country in the event of a marine spill.

He said that Jamaica is particularly vulnerable given its heavy dependence on international shipping of goods.

He noted, however, that “Jamaica has acceded to a number of IMO conventions that govern safety, security and pollution prevention, but also those liability and compensation instruments, which provide for losses and damages resulting from negative pollution impacts, including justifiable economic losses”.

Consultant from RAC/REMPEITC Caribe, Lieutenant Commander Floyd Patterson, said it must be noted that major oil spills have crippled countries and economies, hence the need for a plan that can be put into action in a timely manner.

“The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, for instance, nobody was really prepared and, as a result, it really caused a major problem. So it is important that we are not only prepared but we are so prepared that even if we’re called in the middle of the night to say there is an oil spill, we can respond and respond perfectly,” he said.

“Timing is of the essence when you’re dealing with an oil spill, and if you waste an hour, it can lead towards crippling an industry. You would never imagine the magnitude,” he added.