Barbados is set to receive guidance on the establishment of a national oil spill contingency fund.

This was announced by acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of the Environment and Drainage, Edison Alleyne, as he addressed the start of a two-day regional workshop on the International Liability Compensatory Regimes for Pollution Damage at the Accra Beach Resort and Spa today.

Mr. Alleyne explained that the Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Information and Training Centre for the Wider Caribbean (REMPEITC-Caribe) has offered Barbados its time and expertise to assist the Barbados National Oil Spill Response Committee in the establishment of the fund.

???It is my understanding that this offer involves not only sensitisation on existing liability and compensatory regimes, but information on how contingency funds are established, maintained, and administered,??? he said.

He stressed that the establishment of such funds was important as approximately 30 per cent of the world???s volume of oil passes through or originates from the region, thereby making the probability of a large-scale incident high.

The acting Permanent Secretary urged those responsible to pay special attention to the timely compensation of third parties affected by the spills as he believed it was a critical component of its administration.

Mr. Alleyne explained that typically, liability and compensation regimes operated on the polluter pays principle ??? where the polluter pays the cost for the clean-up and third party damages.

But, in cases where the person responsible was unknown, a contingency fund could assist in mobilising funds for the response during all phases of the incident.

He pointed out that there were small oil spills in Barbados over the years, including ones in January 2006 involving gas, oil, kerosene, diesel and molasses being released into the harbour; approximately five barrels of diesel product being poured into the sea off Oistins; and a surface spill in August 2008 which resulted in seepage of oil through the rock surface along the coast.

???These incidents show that accidents can occur at various times and under a range of conditions, but all result in some direct or indirect economic cost,??? he said. The acting Permanent Secretary added that with the world in the middle of one of the worst financial crises, a major oil spill at this time could be catastrophic.

Noting that he hoped the fund would work in conjunction with the national oil spill response system already in place, Mr. Alleyne said Government strengthened its emergency planning and response systems. ??????This next step of establishing the fund is complimentary and we are grateful for this timely assistance from RAC/REMPITEC [Regional Activity Centre/REMPITEC],??? he added.

RAC/REMPEITC-Caribe has been instrumental in assisting Member States and territories in the wider Caribbean region in the development of regional and national oil spill contingency plans, setting up systems for counter pollution measures, conducting training and exercises for major pollution events including oil hazards and noxious substances, and encouraging the ratification and implementation of related Conventions.

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