Thursday, June 17, 2010

RESEARCH has indicated that Caribbean countries cannot claim compensation

RESEARCH has indicated that Caribbean countries cannot claim 
compensation for any damage to their territories stemming from the Gulf 
oil spill under any current international or US legislation, according 
to the Deputy Prime Minister. 
For this reason, The Bahamas has lobbied the United States Government to
update its oil spill legislation - despite the fact that any benefits 
from the proposed changes will not likely improve Caribbean countries' 
chances of being compensated for the present spill but only perhaps if a
similar incident occurs in the future. 

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Brent Symonette, 
in a meeting between Caribbean leaders and US Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton in Barbados last week to discuss regional security issues, 
raised concerns on behalf of Caricom members states about the potential 
impact of the Gulf oil spill in the region.
Mr Symonette said that the "out of date" legislation was the "most 
important" point raised by Caricom with Mrs Clinton at the meeting on 
the question of the growing oil spill. "Most of the legislative issues - and we have to accept this (a spill 
like that in the Gulf of Mexico at present) has never happened before - 
most of the legislative questions are covered in international protocols
with regard to discharging oil from tankers, cruise ships and so forth 
and also the Oil Spill Act in the U.S. which only covers oil spills in 
the jurisdiction of the US. 

So we talked about the modernisation of the 
laws to be able to cover spills from an oil rig," said Mr Symonette.
In a recent report on the oil spill and its implications for Caricom 
states, compiled by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency 
(CDEMA), the agency outlines the main liability and compensation regimes
under which compensation can be claimed for damage stemming from oil 
spills. However, it notes as a "challenge for the Caribbean" the fact 
that such regimes all refer to spills from tankers, shipping accidents 
or ocean-going shipping.
"The Regional Activity Centre/Regional Marine Pollution Emergency 
Information and Training Centre (REMPEITC) and CDEMA research has been 
unable to identify any international convention or fund that will cover 
compensation for the current emission of oil from a deepwater well for 
an affected Caribbean state," said the report.
"It should also be noted that the Oil Pollution Act 1990 of the United 
States of America will provide support to US states but not to countries
outside the U.S.
"If necessary, affected countries may have to engage directly with 
British Petroleum for funding or compensation. 

indicated their willingness to facilitate this discussion," it adds.
The CDEMA report also reveals what have been determined to be The 
Bahamas' "immediate needs" arising from the potential for the Deepwater 
Horizon oil spill and its potential to impact Bahamian shores.
These include: 4,000 metres of boom to secure "sensitive key areas" from
the oil and "personal protective equipment" for 800 people to clean up 
oil tar balls.
Such equipment should include 2,000 to 3,000 disposable jump suits, 
1,000 pairs of boots, 2,000 pairs of rubber gloves, 2,000 face masks, 
250 spades or shovels and 250 plastic buckets, said the report.

At present the "greatest impact" expected to be seen in The Bahamas from
the oil spill is the arrival of "tar balls" on Bahamian beaches. Such 
tar balls are usually around a coin size in diameter and not commonly 
hazardous but may collect on beaches and require manual removal by 
trained volunteers followed by disposal in a "safe place, recycling or 
Volunteers are currently being sought to receive training on tar ball 
clean up.

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