Nine years on, the Macondo Gulf of Mexico oil spill still has profound and transformative repercussions for our industry. While these have generally resulted in increased awareness on the importance of a robust oil spill preparedness program, there are some operators who unfortunately still "settle" for the bare minimum, simply to meet regulatory requirements. This paper discusses the importance of viewing oil spill preparedness as a series of process steps and explores the tools and support available in the industry, including the IOGP/IPIECA Joint Industry Project (JIP) Oil Spill Response.
An excellent way to start the process of improving preparedness is through assessing the organisation’ s current capability, both in terms of what has been managed well and key areas for improvement. Whether it is a new facility or an old one, this capability review helps in giving an overview of where the organization stands in terms of its readiness to combat an oil spill. Based on the outcomes, it is then the organisation's responsibility to prioritise and agree on the forward plan. This helps them drive the improvement and set focus on a common goal. It is important to get this first step right, as it establishes the tone and defines the success of the preparedness journey. This can be achieved by engaging competent personnel and appropriate stakeholders throughout the journey to allow for meaningful discussion while in a non-emergency situation. The subsequent steps in the preparedness journey are aimed at building competencies and continuously improving the oil spill response capability. This includes developing or updating plans as well as conducting trainings and exercises.
The potential consequences of not maintaining a robust preparedness programme may not be readily apparent during peacetime. However, when an incident strikes, even a minor deficiency in preparedness could prove to be detrimental to the organization. The real case experiences highlighted in this paper will illustrate how the cost and effort put into maintaining preparedness can provide exponential pay-back in a spill.