Guyana’s Civil Defence Commission (CDC) has completed and officially handed over the country’s National Oil Spill Contingency Plan to Prime Minister Mark Phillips who has responsibility for the sector.
The plan dictates that in the event of an oil spill, all concerned government agencies, all oil companies, shipping companies and other involved parties are required to follow the procedures established in the document.
It also states clearly the obligation of the responsible party/polluter, which is to undertake all necessary actions and expenditures and in any event be held liable for all costs and damages arising from or connected with the spill.
According to the Plan, the party responsible for causing the spill has the following specific responsibilities:
a. Reporting the spill immediately to the National Focal Point/Lead Agency
b. Taking immediate action to control or stem the source of the spill
c. Taking immediate action to contain the spill and prevent it from spreading and
d. Co-operating fully with the Competent National Authority (CNA) in the response to the spill under the direction of the CNA.
The plan also accounts for oil and petroleum products entering Guyana’s territorial waters from spills which occur in neighbouring states.
It outlines the framework within which resources will be coordinated and deployed in Guyana for the purpose of dealing with pollution of the land and marine environment from spills of oil and petroleum products.
The plan states that due to the proximity of Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela, a spill occurring in any one country may have direct or indirect social, economic, or environmental impacts on the others. Therefore, a good working relationship is to be established among the neighbouring territories in the interest of reducing impacts of major spills that occur near the borders. Additionally, a rapid response agreement of equal rights of access must be established. This is included in section 2.8 of the Caribbean Island plan.
The National Oil Spill Contingency Plan was designed to satisfy the requirements under domestic legislation and policies, as well as international conventions including the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) and the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation (OPRC) 1990.
Currently, the FSO Nabarima oil tanker with 1.3 million barrels of crude oil is sinking in the Gulf of Paria between Venezuela and Trinidad, and can impact the ecological systems of Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago almost immediately.
The Civil Defence Commission (CDC) and Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Authority (CDEMA) are closely monitoring the situation and will keep the public updated.