In an exclusive interview to SAFETY4SEA, Mr. Oli Beavon, Managing Director at ITOPF, highlights that although there has been a reduction in oil spill accidents, maritime stakeholders should remain vigilant. In any accidental marine spill, quick response is vital; in that regard, ITOPF cooperates with different maritime stakeholders in order to build its technical knowledge.
r. Beavon explains that currently, there are more complex marine spills from ships, involving many types of cargo and changing types of fuel. As such, ITOPF remains ready to respond 24/7 just as it has done for nearly 54 years.
SAFETY4SEA: What are the top priorities in ITOPF agenda for the next five years?
Oli Beavon: We have a number of strategic pillars I am focused on. They centre on re-engaging with stakeholders, given the lost time during covid restrictions, and broadening our international connections. Our diverse talent is the reason we excel at this however, we can do more in the Asia Pacific region. I am also looking at continued improvement of processes and increasing the digital nature of our activity. We have so much valuable historical information in our organisation that we can use more efficiently as we digitise it, but also making it easier to capture information in real time to aid our missions.
S4S: What are the key actions that will make a step change in industry’s preparedness and response to accidental marine spills?
O.B.: There is always going to be the idea preventative actions are the most effective approach and with good reason. Positively, there has been a reduction in events which can result in pollution of the environment. Although, what we’re now seeing are more complex marine spills from ships, involving many types of cargo and changing types of fuel. To keep at the forefront of effective spill response, we’re building the technical knowledge to deal with these more complex cases and through our engagement we continue to share the lessons on how best to respond, for the best environmental outcome.
S4S: What are the key lessons learned from past incidents that may be helpful on international oil spill responses?
O.B.: We’re always learning and updating our understanding but the shipping industry is also evolving quickly. The biggest lessons of the past may not always give us the answers for the future. Which is why we are constantly looking to understand how we would respond to any cargo and any fuel that finds its way into our oceans, waterways and onto our shores and coastlines. A big lesson is to respond quickly, so we ask shipowners and P&I clubs to call us any time, day and night, if they need advice or for us to respond.
S4S: Are there any alarming trends from claims analysis & damage assessment during the last ten years that you would like to share?
O.B.: I don’t think there are any alarming trends. Claims are becoming more complex and if a spill happens in a location where the local government, stakeholders and response organisations have not seen that kind of event for a while, we know there will always be a learning curve. We want to help reduce this curve with our experience from more than 800 events we have attended, spanning more than half a century.
S4S: What is your wish list for a harmonization of different state laws with regards to oil spill response? What are the key barriers/ challenges?
O.B.: A key part our work is promotion of the International Conventions set by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), which provide a set of uniform global criteria for many aspects of shipping. Harmonisation between States is achieved as countries ratify the conventions and incorporate convention texts into national law. Given that shipping is a global industry, it is reassuring that these international conventions are in place in many coastal States and therefore can provide a uniform solution for most scenarios of ship-source marine oil pollution. That said, some conventions have not been ratified universally or are not yet in force. We would encourage States therefore to continue to ratify the relevant conventions.
S4S: In your view, has our industry realized the importance of ESG? How can the maritime sector tackle with ESG issues proactively?
O.B.: I think that the maritime industry is thinking about the environmental, social and governance aspects of what we do and I see significant effort from owners, insurers and regulators to up our game. I see ITOPF as part of the solution and we can work together with industry stakeholders to improve in all these areas. Are we doing enough? Not yet. We have a way to go to achieve the 17 UN sustainable development goals and for the industry to become carbon neutral, but the fact we are working on them is a good thing. As an organisation, ITOPF will strive to be a leading example and share our journey in coming years to invite collaboration and help others.
S4S: Do you have any new projects/ plans you would like to share with industry stakeholders?
O.B.: We remain ready to respond 24/7 just as we have done for nearly 54 years. Like any organisation, standing still is not an option as we would be left behind, so the pace of change continues to match out industry. We are implementing the findings from a number of modernization projects my predecessor worked on for the last two years and we are seeking to continuously challenge ourselves to be better by being simpler, safer and more sustainable. As for new projects they will be aligned with being more digital and designed to make us even more attractive to the current and future talent who work for ITOPF, who are ultimately our greatest asset.
S4S: What is your key message to industry stakeholders for a better and more sustainable shipping?
O.B.: We wholeheartedly support your drive towards a better, more sustainable future in shipping, and we will be there for you should anything go wrong.
The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.