Audit finds key mechanisms for Guyana’s response to oil spills substantially in place

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Guyana’s Auditor General, Deodat Sharma, has found that the oil-producing country has adequate mechanisms in place to receive support from other countries should there be an unmitigated spill.

Sharma made this commentary in a report following his performance audit of Guyana’s Preparedness for Marine Oil Spill Response. The focus of his evaluation was the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan.

Sharma said Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago had signed an agreement on September 19, 2018, for the development of the energy and energy-related sectors. The agreement caters for cooperation between the two countries in the development of policies, plans and protocols relating to health, safety, and the environment.

In addition, Sharma said Guyana is a member of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), which is a regional inter-governmental agency for disaster management in the Caribbean Community.

Recently, the former Head of Guyana’s Civil Defence Commission (CDC), Kester Craig, was appointed Deputy Executive Director of CDEMA.

Under the CDEMA framework, Guyana can receive external response support from the other eighteen Participating States (PSs), and national, regional and international disaster stakeholders.

Support that can be provided includes technical assistance, specialised equipment, support personnel and information sharing. Also, Sharma said he has taken note of the fact that personnel from key agencies in Guyana participated in oil spill response exercises with neighbouring countries over the past few years.

He said government has also taken the necessary steps to receive assistance from countries in preparing for and responding to oil spill incidents.

It was also noted in the AG’s report that the CDC now has a complete list of resources held by various organisations and agencies across Guyana. The lists include equipment held locally, regionally, and internationally by CGX Energy and ExxonMobil, all of which can be mobilised when needed.

OilNOW also understands that there is a Mutual Aid Agreement between operators that will see them sharing and leveraging their resources in a combined effort, if needed.

To build on these efforts, the Audit Office has recommended that the government makes the necessary arrangements to review the legal and regulatory framework to identify gaps and ensure alignment of the plan with international agreements and best practices.

Oil spill simulated during response exercise in new petroleum hotspot | OilNOW

Sharma was keen to note that national laws and regulations are an essential component of creating and supporting an effective National Preparedness and Response System. He said the requisite laws must be in place to establish the overall requirements for oil spill preparedness and response capability, and for assigning responsibilities.

Accordingly, Sharma said specific regulations, some of which were drafted five years ago, need to be updated, finalised, and implemented as soon as possible.

The Auditor General highlighted for example that one area of weakness is that there are no specific regulations or test procedures for the approval of dispersants (chemicals). The Environmental Protection Agency Act, he said, provides a broad mandate regarding the prevention and control of pollution. However, it does not specifically cover offshore petroleum activities. He said this must be corrected forthwith.

Sharma was also keen to warn that the failure to complete the review of the legal and regulatory framework will see some laws, and the national plan by extension, remaining deficient and not aligned with industry best practices.

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