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Waste Management and Pollution Control

Majuro, Marshall Islands - In a landmark collaboration, five Hawaii-based active duty members of the U.S. Coast Guard's 14th District and the Marine Environmental Response team from the newly established Regional Activities Center, alongside a scientific support coordinator from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), joined forces with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to initiate an Oil Spill Task Force in Majuro the first week of April 2024.

Over the course of a productive week, the team made significant progress in developing a National Contingency Plan for the Marshall Islands. 

"This plan is a major step forward in preparing for future oil spill responses in the region, providing a foundation to revisit national laws and further enhance the protection of the RMI against the backdrop of increasing vessel traffic and associated risks," stated Lt. Cmdr. Jesse Harms, the U.S Coast Guard 14th District chief of marine and environmental response.

The task force's formation marks the beginning of a sustained effort by the U.S. Coast Guard to support the RMI in enhancing its oil spill response and preparedness capabilities. The collaboration will continue with the plan's development, leading to workshops and exercises designed to strengthen interagency partnerships within the RMI. 

A stakeholder meeting involving RMI's Department of Transport, Port Authority, immigration, customs, EPA, Ministry of Transportation, Communications and Technology, and the police department was held on April 4 at the Robert Reimers Hotel conference room to assess progress to date and plan for the development of the new National Plan.

"It was such a pleasure to host the team from the US and SPREP, the level of environmental expertise and experience within the group is incredible,” said Moriana Phillip, general manager of the RMI EPA. 

“We are looking forward to this work and we are positive that this is a goal we can achieve in the next few months!"

The task force's progress was highlighted in a briefing to RMI President Hilda Heine and her cabinet. 

The initiative was energised by the RMI EPA's recent experience managing an oil spill from a sunken fishing vessel in Majuro, providing valuable insights into the challenges and necessities of oil spill response. 

“SPREP congratulates RMI for their work in this area. The purpose of the SPREP Pacific Islands Marine Oil Spill Contingency Plan (PacPlan) is to encourage and enable individual member countries to understand and take responsibility for their own spill risk,” said Mr Anthony Talouli, Director of Waste Management and Pollution Control of SPREP.

“In doing so, this is within the wider regional capability and with the support of our partners.   Ultimately, the result is a safer and Cleaner Pacific.  We are honoured to be a part of this, and we look forward to achieving the milestones ahead.”

SPREP, along with the U.S. Coast Guard remains committed to this partnership, underscoring its ongoing support for environmental protection and maritime safety in the Pacific region.