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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

International Maritime Organisation (IMO) team to assess Bahamas oil spill emergency plan

IMO team to assess Bahamas emergency plans for oil spill
Tribune Staff Reporter

EXPERTS from the International Maritime Organisation are in Nassau to liaise with the National Oil Spill Contingency Team to ensure that the Bahamas' emergency plans are adequate should the massive oil spill spreading in the Gulf of Mexico enter our waters.

Environment Minister Earl Deveaux said the two member IMO team will work with local officials until the week's end, assessing the Bahamas' risk of oil exposure and to provide expertise on crafting an oil spill response.

"They will quantify the potential risk of the oil coming ashore, assess our capacity, review the national contingency plan, review the bilateral and regional arrangement to identify where additional capacity is needed, and to provide technical advice and guidance on established practices related to oil spill response.

"They will also prepare a report for us and standby and assist us as the need arises," Mr Deveaux explained, adding that his ministry was currently reviewing an IMO report on conditions at Cay Sal where they searched for evidence of oil contamination.

Mr Deveaux said the report found no indication of oil in the Cay Sal area.

The experts, along with local environmental stakeholders, are expected to hold a press conference today to brief the media on emergency contingency plans related to the massive Gulf oil spill.

Meantime, international weather experts are anxiously watching the movement of the spill. Michael Stubbs, chief climatological officer at the Department of Meteorology, said so far favourable weather conditions have kept the spill near the Gulf of Mexico.

"We've been fortunate that the weather has been keeping the oil confined to its present location in the Gulf of Mexico. The wind patterns shifted slightly over the weekend which sort of raised some concerns, however the wind patterns have resumed their seasonal position which protects the shores of the Bahamas from surface oil and residue like tar balls."

Today marks the start of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season - projected to be one of the most active seasons on record - and weather watchers are concerned that cyclones could exacerbate an already disastrous and unpredictable situation.

A hurricane or other storm system could stifle efforts in the Gulf to contain and clean up the oil. It could also generate strong waves or wind that would spread surface oil, oil residue or particles, and chemical disspersants into the area of the north-western Bahamas.

International reports indicate that BP will launch another attempt to plug the gushing oil well - triggered by an April 20 explosion of its Deepwater Horizon drilling rig which killed 11 workers - in the coming days after its recent try failed.

June 01, 2010