A guide for best practices in spill response preparedness was presented to the international community over ten years ago during the 2008 IOSC. The published guide was the compiled effort of multiple government and industry stakeholder workshops representing the spill response community. Through ARPEL initiatives, the guide was transitioned into a free, user-friendly, spill response/readiness evaluation tool for oil spills (RETOS™) and its accompanying manual. RETOS™ is a scalable self-assessment tool that uses a broad suite of planning and readiness assessment criteria broken down into ten different categories to identify gaps in a response program. RETOS™ has subsequently been used in over 50 countries to assess the status of oil spill readiness and preparedness for national to local facility spill response programs. The benchmarking evaluation identifies gaps and opportunities for improvement, priority areas for development, and establishes a baseline against which program improvements and regional, or complementary, response programs can be gauged.

RETOS use in Caribbean and Latin America countries, instigated through the RAC-REMPEITC and ARPEL, has promoted national plan development, program improvements, and regional cooperation. National programs assessed at a base level using the RETOS™ application revealed scores between approximately 30 and 90% in these regions. National assessments from countries throughout region and a survey of RETOS users, most of whom utilized the tools for assessing national spill response programs, reveal areas that are common challenges for many of the small island and/or developing nations. These encompass financial matters, training and exercises, and sustained improvement. Several countries in the region have conducted subsequent assessments and in some cases have shown as much as 60% improvements in program readiness.

When RETOS™ is used on a regional scale, specific national program gaps can be compiled and analyzed regionally. This analysis can drive future IMO activities to address regional gaps and areas for improvement, highlight specific areas for bi-lateral and multi-lateral mutual aid agreements, and can provide regional solutions to national problems, such as creating and maintaining a database of oil spill equipment and experts available in the countries of the Region. Updates to the ARPEL RETOS™ tool and Manual, continued published guidance on best-practices, and repeated self-assessment efforts are recommended to sustain spill readiness improvements. The RETOS™ tool has proven to be an integral part of national and regional oil spill program assessment and directly contributes to overall oil spill program improvements.

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