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Caribbean lacks resources to combat oil spills, warns Jamaica

18 April 2012

The Caribbean region including Jamaica and other Small Island Developing States lacks the resources to combat a major oil spill, delegates to a regional convention on oil spill prevention and response have been warned.

Opening the convention to discuss oil spill prevention, preparedness and response in the Gulf of Mexico, keynote speaker Christopher Cargill, Chairman of the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, said Jamaica and other islands in the region do not have access to vast amounts of resources to combat major oil spills of the magnitude of the BP Deepwater Horizon incident – which occurred two years ago this month in the Gulf of Mexico.

He told delegates: “We understand that the BP Deepwater Horizon incident involved 47,000 persons, 600 vessels and 120 aircraft and the responders had access to a Spill Liability Trust Fund.

The development of a mechanism for cooperation is therefore a critical part of the preparedness in the region as Jamaica and other small states will have to rely heavily on their neighbours to the north for assistance in dealing with such events. “

The objective of last week’s convention, held in Kingston, Jamaica from April 11-13th,  was to further regional preparedness and cooperation to oversee the offshore oil exploration and exploitation industry and to improve oil spill response preparedness and capabilities.

This was third such forum and aimed to complete a Caribbean Multinational Authorities Matrix to aid regional plans towards the offshore oil exploration industry. The previous discussions looked at the legal and policy frame work for drilling operations and issues related to preparedness and response to pollution incidents arising from oil and gas exploration and exploitation.

According to Bertrand Smith, Director of Legal Affairs at the Maritime Authority of Jamaica (MAJ): “This meeting was important to Jamaica as we ratified the IMO Oil Pollution and Response Convention (OPRC) two years ago and are currently incorporating its provisions into national legislation to deal with discharges from oil and gas platforms, among other things.”

The convention was sponsored by the Maritime Authority of Jamaica and the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica under the auspices of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Regional Activity Centre/Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Information and Training Centre (RAC/REMPEITC).

In attendance were US Ambassador, Ms. Pamela Bridgewater Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Embassy of the United States of America, His Excellency, Mr. Yuri Gala Lopez, Ambassador, Embassy of the Republic of Cuba, and Mr. Raul Mendoza-Gallo, Head of Consular, Commercial and Cooperation Affairs, Embassy of Mexico. Attendees also included representatives from the US State Department and other regulators from the USA as well as delegates from Jamaica, Cuba, Mexico, The Bahamas and Guyana and representatives from RAC/RECPEITC-Caribe.