NEW DELHI: The Indian Coast Guard (ICG), along with other oil pollution response agencies, has conducted a National-level Pollution Response Exercise (NATPOLREX-IX), the Ministry of Defence said on Sunday. “The NATPOLREX-IX accomplished its objective of testing the level of preparedness and coordination between various resource agencies to respond to a marine oil spill, invoking provisions of the National Oil Spill Disaster Contingency Plan (NOSDCP),” the ministry said.
More than 31 foreign observers and 80 delegates participated in the ninth edition of the exercise, conducted on November 25, 2023, off Vadinar coast of Gujarat. “DG Rakesh Pal, director general of Indian Coast Guard and the chairman NOSDCP, reviewed the preparedness of all agencies during the exercise. Representatives of various ministries and departments of Central and coastal state governments, ports, oil-handling agencies and other stakeholders participated in the exercise,” said the MoD.
The ICG deployed surface as well as air platforms, including pollution response vessels, offshore patrol vessels, indigenous advanced light helicopter Mk-III, and Dornier aircraft configured for marine pollution response. The event also showcased India’s industrial prowess in terms of the ‘Make in India’ thrust. The stakeholders like major ports also deployed their maritime assets for showcasing synergised efforts in combating marine pollution.
The Indian Coast Guard functions as the central coordinating authority for response to oil spills in Indian waters. Indian Coast Guard assumed responsibilities for protecting the marine environment in the maritime zones of India on March 7, 1986, when these responsibilities were transferred from the Ministry of Shipping. And subsequently, the coast guard’s prepared the NOSDCP for combating oil spill disasters at sea, which was approved by the Committee of Secretaries in 1993. Apart from drawing up the NOSDCP, the coast guard has established four pollution response centers at Mumbai, Chennai, Port Blair and Vadinar.
Calling for a robust national system for oil spill response as critical to India’s preparedness in Indian waters, the MoD said, “Indeed, 75 per cent of India’s energy requirements are met by oil that is imported to our country by sea. Oil transportation by ships is fraught with inherent risks and requires preventive measures to be taken, both by the ship owners as well as the oil receiving facilities inside the port. But the threat of oil pollution through maritime accidents and unforeseen perils of sea persists.”
‘Oil spill from accidents persists despite readiness’
About 75 per cent of India’s energy requirements are met by oil that is imported to our country by sea. Oil transportation by ships is fraught with inherent risks and requires preventive measures to be taken, both by the ship owners as well as the oil receiving facilities inside the port. But the threat of oil pollution persists, the defence ministry said.