In recent years there has been an increased number of E&P activities in the Western Gulf of Mexico near the international Mexico – U.S. boundary, particularly the Alaminos and Keathely Canyons. Likewise, there is interest from the Mexican government and private enterprise for conducting E&P and LNG activities in Mexican waters near U.S. territorial waters. Because of well known Gulf of Mexico loop current eddies, any significant amount of oil spilled anywhere in the Alaminos or Keathley Canyon areas or even the East Breaks and Garden Banks encounters a real potential for impacting Mexican territorial waters. E&P activities near the international boundary must take into consideration existing international agreements and lessons learned for the preparation of contingency plans.

In 1980, following the June 1979 PEMEX IXTOC I spill, the United States and Mexico signed an agreement of cooperation to draft a joint marine pollution response contingency plan. The agreement delegated to the Mexican Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard the responsibility for developing such a plan. This plan, better known as the MEXUS Plan, was completed and acknowledged by both countries in the year 2000. It addresses bilateral cooperation and procedures in response to pollution incidents that could affect the coastal waters of both countries. Oil companies operating near the international U.S. and Mexican boundaries need to be familiar with the application of the MEXUS Plan.

Since the signing of the MEXUS Plan, a series of exercises has been conducted that put to test the practical applicability of the plan. Exercise sponsors have included Unocal Corporation, Shell Exploration & Production Company, the Mexican Navy and most recently PEMEX. The lessons learned from these exercises are paramount ingredients for the development of a spill contingency plan near the international boundary. Information includes: Responsible elements, notification procedures, alternative techniques for spill response, bi-national policies, available resources, joint spill management system, customs and immigration procedures for transboundary crossing of personnel and equipment during a spill response.

You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.