Spill response during the Covid-19 pandemic (2022) - extended abstract
Written by 12 October 2022
Paper presented at INTERSPILL 2022, 21-23 June 2022, Amsterdam, Netherlands (extended abstract only)
The COVID-19 pandemic brought colossal challenges and novel issues for countries around the world. Amidst the chaos brought to global economies, restrictions to travel and limitations on personal freedom, the shipping industry has continued to keep global trade afloat. With the shipping industry continuing to operate, the threat of environmental damage from an accidental pollution incident remained. Responding to a spill under COVID-19 conditions has brought unparalleled challenges in all aspects of launching an effective spill response. Over the course of the pandemic to date, two incidents have dominated media attention and triggered significant responses – WAKASHIO in southeast Mauritius and X-PRESS PEARL in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Both of these incidents took place in Indian Ocean island states but were very different incidents in terms of the nature of the spills and the COVID-19 restrictions placed on the responders. Every aspect of spill response was affected; from mobilizing international equipment and personnel to limitations placed on the clean-up teams on the shoreline. Each country presented the responder with a new set of ever-changing rules to be navigated to effectively clean-up the spillage while ensuring the safety of response personnel. This paper discusses the experiences and issues from a personal perspective that were faced in these, and other smaller incidents, and what lessons were learned that can be applied going forwards during the COVID-19 pandemic, or indeed, for any future pandemics.