There are always lessons to be learnt from every oil spill response. Similarly, critics are always quick to point out how a response was too slow, the inadequacy of equipment / manpower resources and, inevitably, how the response lacks proper coordination. Yet many of these common criticisms can be resolved if artificial ‘roadblocks and red tape’ are removed so that Responders can go about doing their jobs, providing prompt responses in mitigating damages caused by oil spills. This paper will discuss the challenges of mounting an international oil spill response in the Asia Pacific with specific references to political roadblocks and red tape put up by ‘recipient’ countries.

Tier 3 Oil Spill Response organizations, namely Oil Spill Response and East Asia Response Limited (OSRL/EARL), regularly practices activations and resource deployments through exercises with different scenarios. These exercises can take the form of tabletop exercises or full scale deployment of equipment, recall of Members’ regional and worldwide teams. The larger scale exercises involve trans-boundary movement of people and equipment, including boats and aircrafts.

OSRL/EARL has conducted large scale exercises successfully. Unfortunately, there are also times when red tape prevented the company from responding in the swift and efficient manner that it endeavors. Various reasons given are ‘national security’ and the need for very ‘high level approvals’ as the recipient country will be deemed to be calling outside assistance for a national incident.

The paper will discuss some of OSRL/EARL'S experiences like:

  • Response organizations refusing to participate in exercises due to ‘national security’ reasons

  • National agencies refusing import of equipment due to taxation laws

  • Protracted approval processes, and sometimes outright refusal, for materials like dispersant

  • Refusing entry of international aircrafts

  • Clearance and complicated permit requirements for Responders entering a country to assist in the response

The challenge to remove these road blocks is an uphill task.

OSRL/EARL has an on-going Advocacy program to engage and cooperate on these issues with Government Agencies and relevant bodies. The Author believes that the removal of ‘road blocks’ will expedite responses to oil spills.

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