It is the nightmare of Belize’s environmental community and its Government officials alike – the possibility of oil spilling either on land or at sea. With interest in exploration stepping up and at least one operation, that of Belize Natural Energy (BNE), already in place, the importance of tailoring a response to a potential oil spill is important, and so a group of the people who would be first on the scene in any such event was held on Tuesday in Belize City.
We hear more from Acting Senior Environmental Officer in the Department of the Environment, Maxine Monsanto.
“This training is two-fold. One: To provide basic techniques for oil spill response and how to clean up oil along the shorelines, for first responders. Two: It’s to provide tactics and organizational skills to on-scene commanders for supervising oil spill response.
The overall objective for the three days is to have a more effectively trained personel, who can coordinate and respond in a timely manner to an oil spill event.”
Visiting consultants Dr. Elliott Taylor and Claudine Tiercelin lead the training.
Dr. Taylor, principal of Polaris Applied Sciences, is also an oceanographer and consultant with the International Maritime Organization (IMO), who has had years of experience in responding to oil spills, most notably the infamous Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska, U.S.A.
He outlined for us the key areas in which Belize must have resources available, to successfully combat an oil spill disaster should it ever happen here.
“The first response, typically, is going to be two-fold. One: We need to make sure that the notifications are out there, because you need to make sure that those people, that have been trained to respond, are moving very quickly to the incident itself.
Then I would say that falling right on the same heels of that response is safety of people. There is no way to minimise the concern we have about protecting people and risks to human health and human safety.
The next one is environment. A good responder, a good first on-scene commander is going to be evaluating all those aspects very quickly, to make to make sure that those priorities are addressed in that order.”
According to Elliott Taylor, the infamous BP Deepwater Horizon spill off Louisiana a few years ago forced a major rethink of plans to respond to oil spills, because of the magnitude of the disaster.
The conference continues through Thursday.