The Barbados National Oil Spill Response Committee today concluded a two-day simulation exercise aimed at testing this island’s preparedness in the event of an oil spill at sea.

Members of the Barbados Coast Guard, the Royal Barbados Police Force’s Marine Unit and other agencies were pressed into action around 9:26 a.m., to practically respond to a simulated scenario in which 170 barrels of oil were spilled into the sea off the Esso jetty at Bridgetown.

Over 76 participants engaged in both yesterday’s table-top and today’s practical exercises.?? The practical component, which concentrated on the mobilisation of equipment, saw the deployment of 2,100 feet of oil containment barrier (boom), used to contain the spread of oil.?? This was placed in the vicinity of the Esso pier, in the immediate area around the spill, as well as directly outside the entrance to the Bridgetown Harbour, and parallel to the shore at Brandons Beach.

In giving the background to the exercise, Deputy Director of the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) and Chairman of the Barbados National Oil Response Committee, Anthony Headley, told members of the media, the EPD was approached by Esso Standard Oil Limited to sponsor the exercise, which coincided with the Committee’s plans.

Mr. Headley noted that the last simulation exercise was conducted in 2004, and coming out of that experience, certain refinements were made to the National Plan, which needed to be tested.

According to the him, the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan was approved by Cabinet in 2002, and this approval resulted in the establishment of the Barbados National Oil Spill Response Committee, with both public and private sector interests and companies.

In addressing a debriefing session following the drill, Mr. Headley said this year’s exercise showed marked progress over the 2004 event. "There is a vast improvement in the capabilities of the national response system to oil spills. The exercise demonstrated a definitive structure, provided clarification on roles and responsibilities and was a useful example of positive synergies between the public and private sectors."

He added that going forward, there would be further clarification of roles and responsibilities, preparation of sensitivity maps, and advanced training for specific agencies, where necessary.

Meanwhile, Country Manager of Esso Standard Oil Limited, Cally Boyea, noted that due to the nature of?? their?? business,?? tremendous emphasis was placed on safety and, in particular, on avoiding injuries and protecting the environment.

??"We are aware that the Barbados environment is a very sensitive one and we make every effort to provide the requisite training needed to prevent any such incidents. We were, therefore, happy for this opportunity to work with Government entities to ensure that the Esso Oil Spill Response Team integrates well into the Barbados National Response, and today’s exercise provided us a wonderful opportunity to test that integration."

??The 14-agency National Oil Spill Response Committee includes the Royal Barbados Police Force, Barbados Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Department, the Coastal Zone Management Unit, Barbados Fire Service and a collection of private sector organisations, including local oil companies, under the umbrella of the Marine Oil Spill Action Plan (MOSAP).

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