"This is a drill".?? Although these words were repeated hundreds of times throughout the Tier III Oil Spill Simulation Exercise, held last week at the Hilton Hotel, the hive of activity and speed of response was very real and suggested that Barbados would be ready in the event of an actual emergency.
The Needham’s Ballroom was transformed into a ???command centre’ where various teams enacted a real-time response to the simulated oil spill, which involved some 1700 barrels of oil being discharged into the water at ESSO’s pier at the Bridgetown Port.?? Whilst simulation drills are not a foreign concept for Barbados, this was the second time that a Tier III exercise had been conducted.?? Minister of the Environment, Denis Kellman, lauded the event sponsors, ESSO; the hosts, the Barbados National Oil Spill Committee; and the various national and international organisations involved for the hands-on nature of the exercise.
|From left: Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office responsible for Energy, Senator Darcy Boyce; Permananet Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Lionel Weekes; Acting Minister of the Environment, Denis Kellman; Country Manager for ESSO, Cally Boyea and a member of the LAART in discussion at the simulation.??|
"Sometimes we forget that the Caribbean Sea is the second largest sea mass in the world and anytime we have an oil spill it will impact tremendously on all islands within the Caribbean… We are not sitting back and saying it will not happen.?? We are being proactive and ensuring that if it occurs, that we have an action plan in place to correct it…we recognise the dangers that can occur, and we are putting our resources in place to ensure that we can correct any environmental fallout.?? And in case we do not have the capabilities, we have been connected to the tier III system, where we can seek help from outside," he said.
Given the size of the simulated spill, it was deemed that national resources would be insufficient.?? Country Manager for ESSO Barbados, Cally Boyea, explained that the steps taken during the exercise would be repeated in the event of an actual emergency.
"The first step would be to call the Environmental Protection Department (EPD).?? They are my initial point of contact.?? Having done my assessment [of the spill], I would alert them to my initial findings.?? The EPD would then, depending on the information I pass to them, activate the Barbados National Response Team, which involves the Department of Emergency Management, the Coast Guard and the Police.
The Country Manager noted that local entities would be crucial in any response, with the Marine Oil Spill Action Plan (MOSAP), the cooperative of local oil companies, serving as an example. He also highlighted, however, that there was a system in place to engage external assistance for an emergency as illustrated through the exercise.
"…in the Caribbean, we operate in very sensitive environmental economies.?? Particularly in the case of Barbados, where the economy is based on tourism, we have to be able to respond quickly.?? So we have a team of trained people based throughout the Caribbean called the Latin American Regional Response Team (LARRT).?? These people are passport ready, they’ve been trained, they were actually here in 2004, and did some training with us.?? So fortunately they have their experience and the knowledge
of what happens on the ground.?? Those people would’ve jumped on a plane, got into Barbados, and be ready to respond," Mr. Boyea explained.
The Country Manager revealed that during the simulation, the LARRT team and national representatives were able to take a unified, integrated approach, which resulted
in the simulated deployment of ???oil boom’ to contain the spill, projections of where the oil was moving because of winds and currents, protection plans for beaches likely to be affected and the activation of the Barbados National Response Team and LARRT. He added that in the event that additional support was required, ESSO’s partnership with Clean Caribbean Americas (CCA) would facilitate the transportation of crucial clean-up equipment to Barbados.
Deputy Director of the Environmental Protection Department, and Chair of the Barbados National Oil Spill Response Committee, Anthony Headley, stressed that the action taken during the response to an oil spill would focus on minimising its effects and ensuring public health.
"Our first priority, when the spill occurs, is to make sure we control the source and contain the spill and that’s what the oil company team will do initially …then from there, within government we have a team, we have the Coastal Zone Management Unit, we have the National Conservation Commission, and two persons from the NCC were trained with the CCA just a month or two ago and they’re participating in this drill… In any response [we would want] to ensure that we protect the safety and health of people within the country, and all of our visitors, [as well as] the environment and the assets in terms of our tourism product – our beaches," he observed.
Mr. Headley confirmed that the exercise, which ended last Thursday, was a positive one and observed that "the overseas participants were impressed with the local team and vice versa." He added that the proactive approach to ensuring Barbados’
readiness for any eventuality with regard to an oil-related emergency would also be further enhanced through another venture with a regional counterpart.
"We are now involved a project with the Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Information and Training Centre for the Wider Caribbean (REMPEITC-Caribe) out of Curacao. ??They’re preparing a sensitivity index for us.?? Within this index, we’re going to take the databases of the CZMU, the NCC, the Barbados Port Authority and with that information…we’re going to start developing area-specific response plans.?? So we’re going to know where all of our sensitive areas are, and our objective is to minimise any impact from any release on those sensitive areas.?? We have to ensure that we also protect the reputation of Barbados as a tourism destination and that’s what we’re training for, to ensure that we can respond in an effective manner in the event of an emergency," Mr. Headley underlined.