Oil Spill Response Workshop

To promote and facilitate international cooperation and regional assistance to states for the development and maintenance of their full capability to respond effectively to marine pollution incidents involving oil, hazardous and noxious substances, and other marine environmental threats from ships, and thus contribute to the sustainability of the marine environment in the Wider Caribbean Region, the RAC/REMPEITC-Caribe (Regional Activity Centre – Regional Marine Pollution Emergency, Information and Training Centre) held two workshops on Saba from November 26th to 29th, 2012. Delegates from Anguilla, Aruba, Bonaire, Montserrat, Saba, Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten and Turks and Caicos Islands participated in the training.

The Saba contingent comprised government agencies and other relevant parties, including harbor officials and marine park staff, likely to be part of the first line of defense in such a scenario. A representative of local dive operator Sea Saba and fishermen also took part in the sessions.

Felton L. Gilmore, International Maritime Organization (IMO) consultant at RAC/REMPEITC-Caribe in Curacao stated: “Pollution is a real and constant threat to any country and it is RAC/REMPEITC’s intent to provide the training and assist with capacity building to enable countries to recognize and realize the systems needed to respond and protect their own waters… and in cooperation with their neighbors, to jointly prepare and face those common threats.”

The topics covered during the lectures in the first part of the workshop were oil spill properties, fate and effects; health and safety; command control and communications response strategies (monitoring, in-situ burning, dispersants, containment and recovery); shoreline clean-up; storage and disposal of recovered oil and waste; claims and compensation; media management and awareness.

Second part of the workshop dealt with the preparation and deployment of the current buster system to combat oil spills in Saba waters, as well as recovery, cleaning and maintenance of the equipment, recently received from Holland and stored in a 10’ container at Fort Bay. Rijkswaterstaat (the executive body of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment) will ship additional necessary equipment to Saba in 2013.

The practical drills in the actual use of the system were conducted at Fort Bay harbor, utilizing the vessel “Waterman” from St. Eustatius and the Saba Bank Park boat “Queen Beatrix”, for towing the fully assembled system using boom vane, practicing u-turns and hunting of oil.

Dr. Rebecca Coward, trainer and technical advisor of the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Ltd. (ITOPF), remarked “…These workshops are an ideal opportunity to discuss how the island may begin to work proactively towards oil spill preparation and to address the next steps to be taken in this regard. It is a testament to the level of commitment within the local community that the workshops were so well attended and the input throughout the workshop from the participants was key to its success.”

The training was organized by the RAC/REMPEITC-Caribe and funded by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) under the framework of the Regional Risk Reduction Initiative (R3i) project and Rijkswaterstaat.

Written by the Saba Conservation Foundation

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