Sea Alarm’s first 20 years: A 15 year partnership with OSRL
Sea Alarm would not have been where it is today without its 15 years of partnership with Oil Spill Response Ltd (OSRL). This cooperation started January 1, 2005 and continues to be a major engine for driving international progress in wildlife preparedness and response across the globe.
The partnership begins
Sea Alarm’s intentions and early results in advocating for the integration of oiled wildlife response planning and connecting professional oiled wildlife expertise were recognised by the oil industry in 2004. It was BP that stepped forward to provide an ad hoc budget to support some pilot projects to keep the organisation running.
Meanwhile BP was championing the initiative amongst other leading oil companies such as Total, Shell, Chevron and Exxon Mobil, all Members of OSRL. This resulted in a discussion with OSRL regarding a multi-year collaboration with Sea Alarm. In 2005 that collaboration began. Since then, OSRL and Sea Alarm have renewed their cooperative agreement several times and there is continued interest from both organisations to continue in the years to come.
Sea Alarm maintains its status as an independent NGO
From the beginning, OSRL and its Members have respected Sea Alarm’s status as an NGO. The importance of Sea Alarm explicitly not becoming an extension of the oil industry infrastructure was captured in the collaboration agreement. This allowed the organisation, as part of the collaboration, to develop a reputation as an impartial, independent, reliable and professional facilitator of multi-stakeholder processes.
Although the oil industry has been providing structural funding for the organisation, from the beginning Sea Alarm has had an independent decision-making structure for developing its business plans and related activities. Sea Alarm’s mission was built around a simple one issue objective: working with all stakeholders (governments, industry, NGOs) to ensure that the preparedness and response to oiled wildlife incidents would be based on applying agreed international good practice.
Cooperation with OSRL concentrates on 5 pillars of activities:
• Being 24/7 available as an independent advisor to OSRL Members (oil companies), governments and NGOs in case of an oiled wildlife incident,
• Developing a global database with information on relative preparedness in different coastal countries and the key players for an oiled wildlife response (Country Wildlife Response Profiles).
• Advocacy: facilitating the development of good practice guidelines and advocating the use of these guidelines, building and managing cooperation in networks, connecting stakeholders and managing multi-stakeholder processes.
• Involving stakeholders in the development and management of OSRL’s Wildlife Equipment stockpile.
• Assisting interested stakeholders with developing training programmes, integrated response plans and developing/managing preparedness projects.
The two organisations manage these activities together via the OSRL-Sea Alarm Steering Group meetings, in which ITOPF has also participated for many years.
Sea Alarm develops expertise in marine wildlife emergency response
Sea Alarm’s engagement across a broad variety of activities allowed the organisation to develop a unique expertise in a field that was not taken very seriously by governments and industry at the beginning of the millennium. By bringing experts together; focusing on science based-approaches and proven good practices; moderating discussions between stakeholders; developing guidelines and getting them approved by industry or governments; and assisting with the development of training, exercises and integrated planning; Sea Alarm contributed to the development of professionalism in the field of oiled wildlife response and preparedness.
The increasing acceptance of wildlife response as a professional and worthwhile element in the broader context of international marine emergency response preparedness has become more visible over the years. Investments that governments and industry today make in developing their integrated wildlife preparedness have grown far beyond the funding that OSRL has been providing to Sea Alarm to function as an initiator and facilitator of such processes.
Looking to the future of the partnership
The partnership with OSRL has provided Sea Alarm with the means to advance its mission and to mature as an organisation. The partnership has enriched both organisations and has provided many stakeholders in numerous countries with guidance to explore and realise new forms of collaboration. There is definitively more professional capacity and capability for dealing with oiled wildlife scenarios than there was 20 years ago.