The Gulf of Thailand (GOT) is a relatively shallow sea bordered by the littoral states of Cambodia, Malaysia1, Thailand and Vietnam. A large spill occurring inside the Gulf would pose a number of problems; chief of this is the response when the spill crosses national boundaries. There is a vital need then for a tripartite agreement between Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam on oil spill response arrangements if such an event should occur.
At present the three countries have signed a joint communiqué for oil spill management in the Gulf. This is a "soft" document in that it only gives general statements and principles as agreed upon by the countries but not the details on how these could be achieved. A binding "hard" agreement is unlikely in the short term and any oil spill response in the Gulf will have to be handled by each country’s national oil spill contingency plan (NOSCP) independently.
Over the past decades there have been a number of initiatives of littoral states to put in place preventive measures to protect themselves from the threats of marine pollution, including oil pollution. One is the formation of the Tripartite Technical Experts Group (TTEG) on the Safety of Navigation in the Malacca and Singapore Straits by Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Another is also the ASEAN-OSRAP (Oil Spill Response Action Plan). This was set up in 1993 by six ASEAN countries, namely Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Singapore.
There are a number of other agreements in place in the Asian region on oil spill management. The main problem is the capacity of the developing countries, especially in Southeast Asia, to properly respond to oil spill events, especially large ones. Public-private partnerships between industry and governments may be a way to solve this problem. It has been shown that industry involvement, especially early on, is indeed beneficial and essential.
This paper will focus on the trilateral agreement between Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam and how industry resources can be tapped early in the process to help in the fulfillment of a unified response plan in the Gulf of Thailand.