As international best practice dictate, states are supposed to insulate themselves of the risk of oil spills by using various tools such as industry insurance and national disaster arrangements. According to Foreign Affairs Minister, Carl Greenidge, Guyana will be no exception.
Greenidge said that Guyana has already signed on to several conventions, which will help to offer protection if such an eventuality occurs. He said that these include the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage (Bunkers Convention), 2001, and the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation (OPRC). He said, too, that Guyana would also be able to benefit from the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds (IOPC Funds), which provide financial compensation for oil pollution damage that occurs in Member States.
Guyana is also expected to sign on to the Protocol of 1992 to amend the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage.
The Foreign Affairs Minister said that the move to sign on to the aforementioned conventions is based on advice that the Ministry would have provided to Cabinet, which it subsequently accepted.
Just a few days ago, Greenidge also noted that Guyana and its CARICOM sister, Trinidad and Tobago, have already initiated talks on the exchange of resources for the former’s oil spill readiness.
The official said that these talks stem from the Energy Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that was signed last year between the two parties. While most of the dialogue has been via emails and phone calls, Greenidge said that “an intensive face-to-face encounter” is expected before the end of the first quarter.
Greenidge said, “Discussions opened from the time TT’s Prime Minister (Dr. Keith Rowley) was here last year. The Department of Energy had a couple of exchanges and I spoke briefly at the ministerial level with some of the TT officials regarding the desirability of having an intensive face-to-face encounter before the end of the first quarter. Oil spill readiness is one of the matters, which will take centre stage during the encounter.”
The Foreign Affairs Minister also sought to stress that while the responsibility of Guyana’s oil spill readiness does not rest with his Ministry, Cabinet was advised that certain international partners must be engaged on the matter.
The Minister said that there are other things to be done regarding the issue of oil spill readiness but this will be handled by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Energy Department and the Ministry of Natural Resources.
In addition to the efforts being undertaken by the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the Natural Resources Ministry is in the process of seeking international help on various issues, two of which include crisis management in the petroleum sector and boosting Guyana’s preparedness for oil spills.
On its website, the Ministry noted that it is inviting proposals for Strategic Environmental and Social Assessment consultancy in compliance with the requirements of the Guyana Oil and Gas Capacity Building Project #166730, funded by the World Bank.
The Ministry explained that the Government will hire a consultancy firm to prepare a Strategic Environmental and Social Assessment (SESA) for Guyana’s new oil and gas sector to help meet long-term country development outcomes by integrating environmental, social (including labour), health, safety and security considerations in oil and gas policies, laws and sector growth.
Considering the ongoing and proposed development and capacity building activities for the oil and gas sectors, the SESA is expected to provide a comprehensive sector-wide examination of potential impacts, both positive and negative, and identify gaps in regulations, institutional capacity, and public consultation mechanisms. (See link for more details: https://motp.gov.gy/index.php/notices/terms-of-reference/3317-guyana-oil-gas-capacity-building-project-p166730-terms-of-reference-tor-strategic-environmental-social-assessment)
The National Oil Spill Contingency Plan, one of the most critical documents that is supposed to be in place for any emerging petroleum producer like Guyana, is expected to be in place by March 2019. This was noted by head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Dr. Vincent Adams during an interview with this newspaper last year.
Dr. Adams said that the EPA had a chance to review the draft plan and several comments were returned to the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) for consideration.
Dr. Adams described the Oil Spill Contingency Plan as “a work in progress” while noting that it needs a lot of details. The Environmental Engineer is also of the opinion that a proper risk assessment will be needed for the plan. He said that the risk assessment will identify the areas that are most vulnerable to an oil spill and the far-reaching effects of such an eventuality.
The EPA Head said that the CDC may wish to hire someone to do the assessment, since it is a technical area and the document will be a most important one for Guyana’s oil sector.
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