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Press Release | April 10, 2024

U.S. Coast Guard, regional partners launch Oil Spill Task Force in Majuro

U.S. Coast Guard 14th District

MAJURO, Republic of the Marshall Islands — In a landmark collaboration, five Hawaii-based active duty members of the U.S. Coast Guard's 14th District and the Marine Environmental Response team from the newly established Regional Activities Center, alongside a scientific support coordinator from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), joined forces with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the Republic of the Marshall Islands Environmental Protection Authority (RMIEPA) to initiate an Oil Spill Task Force in Majuro the first week of April 2024.

Over the course of a productive week, the team made significant progress in developing a National Contingency Plan for the Marshall Islands. 

"This plan is a major step forward in preparing for future oil spill responses in the region, providing a foundation to revisit national laws and further enhance the protection of the RMI against the backdrop of increasing vessel traffic and associated risks," stated Lt. Cmdr. Jesse Harms, the U.S Coast Guard 14th District chief of marine and environmental response.

The task force's formation marks the beginning of a sustained effort by the U.S. Coast Guard to support the RMI in enhancing its oil spill response and preparedness capabilities. The collaboration will continue with the plan's development, leading to workshops and exercises designed to strengthen interagency partnerships within the RMI. A stakeholder meeting involving RMI's Department of Transport, Port Authority, immigration, customs, EPA, Ministry of Transportation, Communications and Technology, and the police department was held on April 4 at the Robert Reimers Hotel conference room to develop the draft plan.

"It was such a pleasure to host the team from the US and SPREP. The level of environmental expertise and experience within the group is incredible,” said Moriana Phillip, general manager of the RMI EPA. We are looking forward to this work, and we are positive that this is a goal we can achieve in the next few months!"

The task force's progress was highlighted in a briefing to RMI President Hilda Heine and her cabinet. The U.S. Coast Guard team expressed gratitude for the RMI leadership's support in this critical, long-term effort.

The initiative has been energized by the RMI EPA's recent experience managing an oil spill from a sunken fishing vessel in Majuro, providing valuable insights into the challenges and necessities of oil spill response. 

"We look forward to further collaboration. The leadership and dedication of Ms. Moriana Phillip and her team at the RMI EPA are instrumental to the project's success and the development of a robust framework for oil spill response in the Marshall Islands," said Harms.

The U.S. Coast Guard remains committed to this partnership, underscoring its ongoing support for environmental protection and maritime safety in the Pacific region.


About U.S. Coast Guard District 14
U.S. Coast Guard District 14 oversees an area of 14 million square miles in the Central and Western Pacific. As the Coast Guard's largest district, the 1,750-member team operates 25 units. Its multifaceted mission encompasses maritime safety, resource protection, security, and national defense, making it an indispensable force in the Pacific. Under District 14, U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam focuses efforts on maritime safety, security, and stewardship within Oceania.

About the Marine Environmental Response team from the newly established Regional Activities Center
The Marine Environmental Response Regional Activities Center (MER RAC), a part of the U.S. Coast Guard's efforts to bolster environmental response capabilities in the Indo-Pacific, advises and assists partner nations in preparing for maritime incidents. Aligned with strategic initiatives such as the Arctic Strategic Outlook and the Indo-Pacific/Oceania Regional Engagement Plan, MER RAC oversees the coordination of preparedness and response activities, development of international contingency plans, and cooperation agreements. Established alongside the Illegal Unreported Unregulated Fisheries Center of Expertise, MER RAC underscores the Coast Guard's commitment to environmental challenges in the region.