Governor Daniel Pruce, right, speaks to responders from the public and private sectors who attended a recent tabletop exercise designed to test the Virgin Islands Oil Spill Contingency Plan. (Photo: Provided)

What would happen in the event of a major marine disaster requiring a search-and-rescue response and an oil spill clean-up in the territory’s waters?

That question was posed to 22 public officers and other partners who attended a recent training and tabletop exercise designed to test and improve the Virgin Islands Oil Spill Contingency Plan, according to government.

During the drill, responders worked together to talk through how they would coordinate and execute a response to a marine pollution event, according to Department of Disaster Management Director Jasen Penn.

“These officers and our partners from outside government are very well versed in their specialties,
but this training and exercise gave them the opportunity to review our national oil spill plan as a team and identify the gaps that exist,” Mr. Penn said, adding, “This type of ongoing training helps ensure that our plans and procedures keep pace with best practices for marine pollution response.”

The tabletop exercise simulated a complex at-sea incident that included a search-and-rescue element, multiple pollutant types, and the need to request resources from external sources, according to government.

The training was facilitated by two officers from the United Kingdom Maritime Coastguard Agency: Stan Woznicki, the agency’s head of counter-pollution and salvage; and Neil Chapman, the environmental science lead.

International standards

Regular testing of the VI Oil Spill Contingency Plan helps ensure that the territory remains in compliance with the International Maritime Organisation’s International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation, according to government.

The session was coordinated as part of the DDM’s annual training calendar, and participants learned about international best practices for marine pollution management and the risks associated with different types of pollutants.

Attendees included responders from various agencies: the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change; the BVI Airports Authority; the BVI Ports Authority; VI Fire and Rescue Services; DDM; the Department of Waste Management; His Majesty’s Customs; the Royal VI Police Force; the VI Shipping Registry; VI Search and Rescue; Delta Petroleum; and SOL.