WWF WELCOMES THE SIGNING OF THE REVISED JOINT U.S.-RUSSIA CONTINGENCY PLAN FOR POLLUTION RESPONSE
One of the most important revisions to the document is the addition of a clause on emergency response planning and preparedness. Among other things, this implies the conduct of full-scale bilateral oil spill response exercises. WWF-Russia's experts consider this measure especially significant, as vessel traffic in the Bering Strait area is rapidly increasing.
"There has been a sharp increase in Arctic shipping in recent years, especially in the Russian sector," says Aleksei Knizhnikov, Head of the Business Environmental Responsibility Program at WWF-Russia. "We have witnessed tankers passing through the Bering Strait early in the year, when ice conditions are difficult. While this might be good for economic development, it is important to address the growing environmental risks, including those associated with emergency situations. WWF welcomes the signing of the updated document and hopes that in the coming years the parties will jointly plan and conduct full-scale oil spill response exercises in the Bering Strait area within its framework. Our country has much experience in conducting such transboundary exercises; the MRS regularly holds such joint drills with coastal services of neighboring European countries in the Baltic and Barents seas."
The initial Joint Contingency Plan of the United States of America and the Russian Federation in Combating Pollution on the Bering and Chukchi Seas was developed to ensure the implementation of the U.S.-Russia agreement on cooperation in combating transboundary pollution in emergency situations in this region. This Agreement was signed on May 11, 1989, following a major oil tanker accident that occurred off the coast of Alaska in April of that year. Until now, the parties implemented the version of the Plan that had been signed in 2011.
The decision to revise the plan was made in 2017 by the Joint Planning
Group, which includes members both from Russia and the United States.
Environmental organizations, as well as scientific and educational
organizations of the two countries provide all the support they can to improve
the effectiveness of cross-border cooperation of our agencies in emergency
prevention and response. For instance, such support includes continuous updates
of the biodiversity database as part of the ERMA project, as well as the exchange of experience
between experts involved in modeling accidental oil spills.