Next week I’ll be traveling to London to participate in a meeting at the International Maritime Organization. The IMO is a specialized agency of the United Nations and is responsible for improving maritime safety and security and for preventing pollution from ships.
I am one of the U.S. delegates to the Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation/Hazardous and Noxious Substances technical work group (this is where preparing for the worst comes in). Basically, this group develops tools and protocols for oil and chemical spill prevention and response, with a special focus on supporting less developed countries.
In previous sessions we have discussed best practices on how to deploy booms and other equipment to collect oil and analyzed lessons learned from recent incidents from around the world.
Typically 30-40 countries and 10-15 maritime organizations attend the meetings. That makes for a wide perspective on issues and a chance to meet colleagues from around the world. We have a chance to improve response efforts in other countries, which benefits everyone since ships that transit our waters also call on ports around the world.
And you never know when those international contacts may come in handy: I’ve run into international colleagues in places like Dutch Harbor, Alaska, when a foreign ship ran aground in that port.
And it is always interesting to be in London. The IMO headquarters are just across the River Thames from the Parliament and Big Ben.
I will try to post something next week about some of the issues before the work group. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about how we’re trying to prevent oil spills around the world.