Partnerships Key to Managing Oil Spills

By MarEx 2015-03-30 21:16:32

IPIECA, the global oil and gas industry association for environmental and social issues, was formed 41 years ago this March.

Back in 1974, a small group of oil and gas companies from across the globe agreed that complex environmental issues could be better solved by working together rather than on a company basis. As a result, the organization was formed, and it now brings together 37 member companies operating in 146 countries and covering over half the world’s oil and gas production.

Through peer exchange, workshops and guidance documents, IPIECA continues to provide a unique opportunity for the industry to improve its operations and products to meet society’s growing expectations of its environmental and social performance. 

The organization’s Oil Spill Working Group (OSWG) was established in 1987 and serves as a key international industry forum to help improve oil spill contingency planning and response around the world.

Rob Cox, technical director at IPIECA, believes it is crucial that spill prevention and response remains a high priority even as the many initiatives set up after the 2009/10 offshore incidents are starting to deliver results.

“Significant progress has been made in the aftermath of the Montara and Macondo incidents by the offshore industry, but we must not take our eye off the ball. It is vital this work continues,” he says.

When oil spill accidents happen, prompt action minimizes the impact. The oil industry therefore works closely with national and local governments to plan and rehearse a coordinated response to oil spill incidents.
The OSWG aims to improve oil spill preparedness and response around the world by:
 * Enabling members to exchange information and best practices
 * Supporting industry and government co-operation at all levels
 * Encouraging ratification and implementation of relevant international conventions
 * Promoting the principle of ‘Net Environmental Benefit Analysis’ and the ‘Tiered Response’ approach to designing response strategies
 * Developing and communicating the industry’s views and activities to external audiences

The OSWG works on preparedness and response issues, but preventing oil spills is even more important. The concerted effort between regulatory authorities and the oil and shipping industries to develop preventative measures has, over the last few decades, led to a significant reduction in the amount of oil spilt, says the organization.

IMO has been heavily involved in partnerships to reduce the impact of oil spills, and the IMO/IPIECA Global Initiative was formally launched in 1996. The Global Initiative is an umbrella program under which IMO, the oil industry (through IPIECA) and other partners are working together to promote global oil spill preparedness by encouraging and facilitating the development and implementation of oil spill contingency plans and working to increase the ratification and implementation of oil spill related international conventions.

Global Initiative activities include workshops, training courses and exercises designed to encourage better communication and co-operation between government and industry. These events also support the development and implementation of regional, sub-regional and national oil spill contingency plans.

Activities are currently focused on South East Asia, China, Caspian and Black Seas, and West and Central Africa. Each region has a project manager, who helps build local capacity and political will for the development and implementation of effective contingency plans.

Much remains to be done. The cumulative impacts of our actions today will directly affect the health and livelihoods of the estimated nine billion people that will inhabit the Earth by 2050, said IPIECA on the anniversary of its establishment.

Last year, IMO released the video above which shows some of the work that the organization and IPIECA have performed to help improve oil spill response globally.