Oil Spill Response Limited 20th anniversary celebration

After-dinner speech by Efthimios E. Mitropoulos, Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization, London, 9 February 2005

Mr. Chairman, Chief Executive, Directors, Secretary-General Emeritus, my Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen:

It gives me great pleasure to join you with my wife tonight as you celebrate your 20th anniversary. Your story, I believe, represents a remarkable success in our efforts to protect our environment from the effects of pollution.

Twenty years ago, OSRL was launched in response to an oil spill, and in the subsequent years it has always followed the principle that a joint response by partners who share the same concerns was the approach most likely to succeed.

One cannot but be impressed when reflecting how the organization has grown in that intervening period. In 1985, it began with principally BP and a few other companies contributing to the resource pool. Today, the membership embraces 29 international oil companies from Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, Russia and India, and has been further extended to include 36 Associates, including the Spanish and Irish Governments. Yours is a truly international co-operative and, as such, has retained its "not-for-profit" status, which I know is very important to you.

The association between IMO and OSRL has developed over many years, and I have no doubt that it will continue to flourish. My predecessor, Secretary-General O'Neil, was pleased to inaugurate your new base in Southampton in 1992, as well as that of your partner organization, East Asia Response Limited, in Singapore in 1994. And, as I am sure many of you will remember, he was also pleased to be able to join you in celebrating your 15th anniversary, back in 2000. It is now my pleasure to be with you at your 20th.

Among the mutually beneficial activities in which IMO and OSRL have co-operated together, I should like to mention: the OPRC Global Initiative; your considerable support - at no charge - for IMO training courses; your involvement in developing IMO model oil spill training courses; your representation at oil spill conferences, such as the International Oil Spill Conference, Interspill and Spillcon, as well as your input to industry committees and bodies such as the Industry Technical Advisory Committee.

Although oil spill response has been and will, I hope, remain, the core element of your service, you quite rightly place great value on preparedness, which manifests itself in the training and contingency planning services you provide. Not only is OSRL the world's largest provider of oil spill training, it continues to grow its consultancy services, too.

Your alliance with East Asia Response Ltd, to which I referred earlier, has already been in operation for five years; and I am pleased to note that the concept is now expanding through the Global Response Network. This will provide a vehicle through which co-operation with organizations such as Marine Spill Response Corporation in the United States, your co-founders in this initiative, and others such as Clean Caribbean and Americas, the Australian Marine Oil Spill Centre and the Norwegian Oil Field Operators, can be developed and nurtured.

The sheer scope of OSRL's contribution to the cause of oil spill response can be measured in the fact that it has undertaken operations in every continent during its 20 year history. The long list of locations that have benefited from your intervention in dealing with spills ranges from Alaska and the north of Russia, through equatorial east Africa and on to Australia in the south. And you have been in attendance at many of those incidents which go on to achieve an unfortunate notoriety and, as a result, remain fresh in our memories - Exxon Valdez, Braer, Sea Empress, Erika and Prestige, for example.

It came as no surprise when you picked up a prestigious Seatrade Award last year - a deserved recognition of the excellent service you have rendered for so long. Many have benefited directly from your efforts - and indirectly, of course, we all owe a debt of gratitude for the contribution you have made to the mitigation of damage to our global environment.

In conclusion, allow me to congratulate you, once again, on this 20th anniversary. I am sure the maritime community as a whole will join me in wishing you all the very best and will continue to give the support you need, and deserve. It goes without saying that we all hope the calls upon your front-line response services will diminish as shipping becomes safer and accidents fewer and further between. But accidents do happen and they often occur when we are least able to deal with them: we all rest easier for knowing that you are perpetually ready for action and are using your world-class expertise to prepare others.

Ladies and Gentlemen, here's to the success that Oil Spill Response Ltd has achieved during the past 20 years, and to its continuing contribution during the next 20.

Thank you, and congratulations.