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Preparing for the Worst at the International Maritime Organization

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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.

Doug Helton testifying at a past IMO meeting.

Doug Helton testifying at a past IMO meeting. Credit: NOAA

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.

IMO Headquarters.

My destination, the International Maritime Organization. Credit: Doug Helton/NOAA.

Author: doughelton

Doug Helton is the Regional Operations Supervisor for the West Coast, Alaska, Hawaii, and Great Lakes and also serves as the Incident Operations Coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Emergency Response Division. The Division provides scientific and technical support to the Coast Guard during oil and chemical spill responses. The Division is based in Seattle, WA, but manages NOAA response efforts nationally.

One thought on “Preparing for the Worst at the International Maritime Organization

  1. Pingback: Pirates and Oil Pollution: Hijacking the High Seas in the 21st Century | Response and Restoration Blog

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