Remarks by Ambassador Julie J. Chung – U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Environmental Safety Program: Oil Spill Response Workshop

June 6, 2022

Thank you to the Sri Lankan Coast Guard and Navy for hosting and organizing this event in conjunction with the United States Indo-Pacific Command Environmental Security Program.

I appreciate the hugely diverse audience I see here, which includes not only the security forces, but also the Port Authority, the Wildlife Conservation Department and many others. The participation of Sri Lankan government and industry leaders today shows how important environmental safety and disaster response is to all of us, especially since yesterday was World Environmental Day. ‘environment.

This is the fourth edition of the Oil Spill and Related Event Response Workshop. The first workshop was back in November 2014. We then ran an Environmental Sensitivity Index project in 2017. Then we held a second workshop in December 2021 in response to the X-Press Pearl disaster in May 2021. We are now here in June 2022 following up on that December workshop to continue to improve lessons learned from the past and identify future efforts.

This series of workshops is just one example of the United States’ commitment to helping our partners develop real-world response capabilities across a range of challenges.

Protecting the oceans and the environment is a global concern, and all maritime nations must work together to establish effective inter-agency response procedures and capabilities. This type of preparation is particularly important for Sri Lanka, being a major maritime hub in the Indo-Pacific. As we saw with X-Press Pearl, in one day what should have been a routine cargo transit turned into the worst environmental disaster in Sri Lanka’s history.

We have seen horrifying images of fish and turtles washed up on the shores of Negombo, fishing-dependent livelihoods under threat, and the potential lasting chemical impact that we are still working to address. How do we explain this to our children? We must do better.

Oil spill response is just one area of ​​expertise of INDOPACOM’s environmental security program, which addresses a wide range of marine natural resource issues. We are also committed to working with you to combat illegal fishing, coastal zone management and biodiversity conservation, including through the annual Indo-Pacific Environmental Security Forum.

We would even like to work with the government of Sri Lanka to eventually host this forum in 2023 which underscores our partnership in environmental stewardship, bringing together governmental and non-governmental participants for a whole-of-society effort.

These kinds of combined efforts to protect the environment across national borders and social divides can contribute to economic prosperity and conflict prevention. It is our moral imperative for future generations.

I anticipate this workshop to be engaging, productive and beneficial to all parties. I look forward to learning more throughout the week. Thanks.

Ryan H. Bowman