As oil and gas continue to service our growing population centres, spills will continue to occur. In Australia, and in much of the developed world, spills are quickly reported, and guilty parties are assigned grievous fines. However, this is not the reality throughout the world.
In many countries, it is rare to find a coordinated response to oil spill events. Much reporting is often delegated to the firms engaged in oil drilling, but these firms are often incentivised to downplay any spills that do occur, to avoid engaging in, or paying for, cleanup and spill response training for their employee base.
The difficulties are augmented by the monopoly of information that is often enjoyed by the extractors. They also often have very cosy relationships with local governments, so enforcing these fines can be difficult. But an international watchdog has the capacity to exert pressure on these firms, and potentially, to serve as a voice to areas that are underrepresented in local politics.
Coordinated responses and anonymous tips have lately been filtered through a number of non-profit industry associations, such as IPIECA. This global hub serves as a soundboard for best practice methods for spill remediation, open communication, and industry methodology. They also serve as the principal channel of communication between the oil and gas industry, and the United Nations.
Such industry associations have come under fire for being overly close with the industry itself. However, they are doubtlessly industry experts, and it is unreasonable to suggest that the entire sector is guilty of placing revenues over the environment. In particular, in areas where environmental protection is sub-par or underfunded, IPIECA and similar groups can play a major role in aiding remediation efforts for oil spills, through communication and proper spill response training.