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Aug 8, 2018

National Oil Spill Contingency Plan Almost Ready

A workshop with representatives from various government and non-government organizations, and private sector associated with Disaster Risk Management and Oil Spill Response started today in Belize City to validate the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan.  Since last year, the Department of the Environment began the consultancy process to ensure that the plan meets international standards. The overall objective is to strengthen prevention, preparedness and coordinated emergency response nationally for an oil spill event in terrestrial, aquatic and marine environment. As part of the final phase in this Consultancy, the D.O.E. is hosting this National Validation Workshop to conduct a technical validation of the updated plan.  News Five’s Andrea Polanco stopped in at today’s workshop and tells us more about this plan that is in its final stages.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

There are risks for oil spills in Belize – but just how ready are we to respond? Well, a part of the response is indentifying those risks and mapping what steps are to be taken if an oil spill occurs. And that is where the national contingency oil spill plan comes in. It is a revised document that once served as the draft contingency plan, but this updated version meets international standards and is expected to be legislated and used to address oil spills at all levels. Today, the partners are in the final phase reviewing the plan after a year-long work on a document that is comprehensive and addresses all themes in the emergency response to oil spill.

 

Elliott Taylor

Dr. Elliott Taylor, Consultant

“How does this plan fits within the framework of other plans? Whether that plan is a plan that a ship might have or a plan that a facility might have. It includes notification and reporting procedures – who gets notified and who gets reported. It includes organisation – so what different entities within the government or industry are going to participate in managing that spill. So, it is spill management organisation and the process of responding. It includes response strategies – how are you going to deal with spills on the marine side and how are you going to deal with spills on the land side. Safety and risk assessment – where are the potential spill sources, what would those volumes entail and what are the materials that are handled and the safety precautions that need to take for responders and the public if there is a spill. It includes, logistics, so it does speak to communications, transport, supporting a response and not just operational of where skimmers and boom go but actually how you provide support to that whole response. It includes compensation, costs, and tracking and how to recover some of those costs. And it includes training and exercise program that really sets the path for how the government will practice on a regular basis and train to be prepared.”

 

Before this, Belize had only a draft plan in place – but it didn’t cover all areas involved and it was also dated. And that is why the Department of Environment and its partners decided to update it and make it binding document. Maxine Monsanto explains how important this revised document is when compared to the draft.

 

Maxine Monsanto

Maxine Monsanto, Environmental Officer

“It is a drastic change. To start off with, both versions were following the incident command system but it is a fully fleshed out plan that goes from tier one which is a minor oil spill to tier three which is a major oil spill. Even the way we categorize the tiers have changed. Previously to two thousands the categorization was based on oil spilt and so regardless of where the oil spilled, it designed based on a threshold number. What is now being universally used is a system where it is not just taking into account the amount spilt but where it spilt – where the sensitive habitats are, which is why a major component of this plan was the development of environmental sensitivity index maps and logistical maps for the entire coastline and the major petroleum routes for the movement of oil within Belize. So, that that way the determination of what level we are at is based on the surrounding environment, the significance of the urban and the equipment and response mechanism within that area.”

 

OCEANA Belize’s Vice President Janelle Chanona says that the stakeholders recognize the value of this plan – and they want to see it be implemented because there are live threats of oil spill.

 

Janelle Chanona

Janelle Chanona, Vice President, OCEANA Belize

“The importance of looking at live threats that we still have in terms of oil spill impact on our maritime and terrestrial, as well as our rivers and coastlines. We are not only transporting fuel, importing and exporting crude, we’re in shipping and getting stuff out to the cayes. So, I think it is important for us participate in these workshops and listen to the conversations happening about this issue or that God forbid when an incident happens, that we have the wherewithal to ensure and make sure that we understand how this is going to be planned especially from a budget point of view. Because we know when incidents happen there needs to be resources that kick in right away so that that response is as meaningful as possible from minute one. We don’t get a lot of time to think about and map out. So, having a plan is very, very important and we really hope that we never have to see this plan tested but certainly it is one hundred and fifty-percent necessary that we be prepared.”

 

After stakeholders make final revisions to the document, it will then be submitted to cabinet for approval – and once approved, the national oil spill contingency plan will be added to the national hazard plan under NEMO. It will be standardized for national and international purposes.The DOE will then carry out a number of trainings to build capacity among the stakeholders on how to use and follow the plan. Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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