Virtual workshop for oil spills in Pacific Island region

Phase one of a virtual workshop on the ratification and effective implementation of conventions relating to oil pollution preparedness, response and co-operation (OPRC) and the liability and compensation regime in the Pacific Island Region is being held over four days (19, 20, 26, 27 October 2021) this month. This event is jointly organized by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), and the Pacific Community (SPC), under IMO’s Integrated Technical Cooperation Programme (ITCP).

The workshop programme combines raising awareness on the principles of, benefits from, and obligations of State Parties to the OPRC Convention and its Protocol on Preparedness, Response and Co-operation to pollution Incidents by Hazardous and Noxious Substances (OPRC-HNS Protocol). The discussions focused on practical experience, lessons learnt and best practices, with the 2019 MV Solomon Trader incident* providing the common setting. The participatory approach through virtual roundtable discussions and the home-based tasks is designed to generate interest and promote interaction among participants. This in turn is likely to feed into wider regional cooperation and ratification of the conventions.

Opening the event, Mr. Xiaojie Zhang, Director, Technical Cooperation Division, IMO, said, “The call for continuing vigilance in the need to prevent, respond and compensate pollution damage caused by oil spill (cargo or bunker) and incidents involving HNS has never been more pronounced in the region than after the MV Solomon Trader incident. The devastation caused by the said incident in the Solomon Islands resonates across the world, more so as it creates a persistent apprehension among the countries in the Pacific Region of a similar incident happening in the future.”

The workshop was attended by over 50 participants including maritime stakeholders from the 12 Pacific Island Countries, Australia, France, New Zealand and the United States Coast Guard. It is of note that some of these participants included the policy makers and legislative advisors and drafters responsible for the legal and legislative implementation of the IMO instruments into their domestic legislation.

Attendees were empowered to create a practicable roadmap for achieving individual countries’ aspirations for an ecologically sustainable and healthy marine environment within the framework of strong regional cooperation.

The second phase of the workshop, which will also be virtual, will be held over four days in February 2022 (15, 16, 22, 25 February).

*The grounding of MV Solomon Trader in western Rennell island in 2019 resulted in the release of close to 100 tonnes of bunker fuel oil into the sea and led to damage to the ecologically sensitive marine environment in the Pacific region.

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