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Press Release October 1, 1999

Five Pacific Island countries, which have all recently suffered oil spills in their waters, have decided they cannot wait for a final version of a model marine spill contingency plan.

Instead, they have taken draft planning guidelines prepared by the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme's Pacific Ocean Pollution Prevention Programme (PACPOL) and have drawn up their own national contingency plans.

PACPOL program manager Steve Raaymakers said Pacific Island countries received a draft template for national contingency plans for dealing with marine spills in December last year, and guidelines were finalized this week.

"However, some countries wanted to move faster," Mr. Raaymakers said. "Tuvalu has already taken the initiative to work out their national contingency plan; Fiji has just asked SPREP to review its guidelines; Vanuatu’s national marine spill contingency plan is almost completed; Samoa is about to start on its national plan; and the Cook Islands have asked SPREP staff to visit, to help develop a Cook Islands contingency plan."

Mr. Raaymakers said all these countries had been motivated by recent oil spills, which made them realize the value of contingency plans which detailed the procedures, organization and resources needed for any future marine spills. "If you've already planned what you need to do in the unfortunate event of a marine spill, you can act much more rapidly and decisively, and have a better chance of limiting the damage."

He said it was impossible to overstate how important coastal and marine environments are to every aspect of the lives of Pacific Island communities.

"The impacts of marine spills constitute a major concern for all Pacific Island peoples. And because the ocean connects all countries, a spill in one area can affect others, as pollutants and contaminants from a marine spill are carried elsewhere by ocean currents. It is therefore essential for Pacific Island countries to make regional arrangements to deal with marine pollution. No single country in the region can address this problem in isolation."

PACPOL has collaborated with international and regional agencies, and with the shipping and oil industries, to draw up a regional marine spill contingency plan that establishes clear procedures for regional cooperation in the event of a major spill.

Mr. Raaymakers said countries without a national marine spill contingency plan were not eligible for external assistance in the event of a spill. "In addition, once a country has submitted its national plan to SPREP, it is eligible for a grant of US$5000 to help it put its plan into action."

For more information, contact: Steve Raaymakers or Jan Sinclair at SPREP Tel: (685) 21 929 Fax: (685) 20 231 E-mail: or 

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