– to be followed by consultations to sensitise stakeholdersThe National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP), which has been a work in progress since last year, is scheduled to be completed by next month. This is according to Civil Defence Commission (CDC) Director, Lieutenant Colonel Kester Craig.The participants at the workshop pose for a photographCraig was at the time speaking at the opening ceremony of the final stakeholder workshop for the plan, which outlines Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for an oil spill, as well as the various roles each agency will play.He explained that they were working to complete the plan in the first week of November, after which it would be submitted to Cabinet and consultations with the relevant stakeholders held to sensitise them on the policy.“After we developed this draft, we circulated it to all of you for comments,” he told participants at the workshop. “But the plan was also circulated to RacRempeitc and the United States Coast Guard and they provided us with additional comments.“And with the comments coming out of this workshop today, we will be working to have this plan finalised by the first week of November, after which it will be submitted to Cabinet. When we complete the plan, we’ll be having several orientation seminars, so people can understand their roles and responsibilities.”Craig further explained that simulation exercises would be used as a basis to help update the plan. This is indeed provided for in the NOSCP, which states that the plan will be reviewed and updated every three years or as needed based on “drills, exercises, actual oil spill incidents and changes in operating and legal environment”.“We’ll also have exercises: table-top exercises, full-scale exercises, … because this document is going to be a living document. It’s not going to be a document that we will take and put down and just wait for something to happen. At the end of every review, every exercise, the plan will be adjusted,” the CDC Head explained.“We’re also talking with the US Coast Guard about developing training programmes, multi-year training and testing of the plan. So the support we need from external partners, we already gathered that support,” Craig said.He also spoke about the delineation of responsibilities within the plan, and the fact that its guidelines were modelled on other plans. The plan sets out a three-tier system of dealing with oil spills.There is a tier one level that deals with the local and facility level response; the tier two level, which is a national response to the oil spill and the regional and international response to an oil spill.“A key feature of our oil spill response plan that is different from several other plans developed in the Caribbean is that our plan caters for both onshore and offshore oil spills. So you have sections dealing with roles and responsibilities for persons that will have responsibility for oil spills onshore and offshore.”“The plan was also developed following a number of guidelines and templates, including the International Maritime Organisation Manual on Oil Pollution Contingency Planning. We also reviewed and used as a guide the Regional Caribbean Island Oil Pollution Response and Cooperation Plan 2012, for the Caribbean Region,” he said, noting that other plans were also reviewed.Also present was Minister of State, Dawn Hastings-Williams, who lauded the work done so far in developing the plan. She also encouraged the participants to put their heads and expertise together during the workshop.“I urge you not to underestimate the task at hand. It is of the utmost national priority; your government is supremely aware of this and has consistently left no stone unturned in matters of this nature. As evidenced by today’s activity, we will continue to work assiduously to ensure we address this issue as much as possible,” Minister Hastings-Williams said.Participants included representatives from Government Ministries such as the Finance Ministry and agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as the Guyana Police Force, Guyana Defence Force and the Coast Guard.