WMU/IMO Conference on Oil Spill Risk Management
The international community working together to address emerging challenges in oil pollution response.
The first WMU/IMO Conference on Oil Spill Risk Management was held in Malmo, Sweden from 7 to 9 March 2011, jointly organized by the World Maritime University (WMU) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO). It has made a unique contribution to the global state of knowledge and experience on oil-spill risk management, preparedness for and response to oil pollution incidents in the shipping and oil exploration and production sectors. The Deepwater Horizon incident of 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico provided the backdrop to the conference, with keynote speakers including the Chairman of BP, Carl-Henric Svanberg and Admiral Thad Allen, US Coast Guard (ret).
The event brought together stakeholders from across the globe: shipping and petroleum industry leaders, government policy decision-makers, leading academics and officials from NGOs. A series of presentations and round-table discussions provided an opportunity to discuss topics ranging from risk assessment to advances in oil-spill mitigation and response. Two targeted sessions on deepwater drilling and the risk and response challenges for polar waters recognized that these are the emerging threats facing the international response community.
There was consensus among the keynote speakers who opened the conference that given the inexorable demand for – and rise in the price of – oil, especially against the backdrop of current events, the exploitation of new areas would soon be a reality. A price of $200 per barrel in the coming months is predicted, and the world’s need for fossil fuels will increase three-fold by 2025, according to UN forecasts. As the development of remote, sensitive and difficult environments, such as the Arctic, becomes a reality, oil will become more mobile than ever, being transported over greater and greater distances, and through increasingly congested sea lanes.
All these factors heighten the risk of oil spills making strengthened risk management a top priority for both government and industry, especially in view of the environmental sensitivity, the extreme weather, and the lack of infrastructure in such remote areas.