Ecologically, the Wider Caribbean Region is considered to be a highly sensitive area. The area is classified as ‘high-risk’ due to a history of major oil spills and chemical spill incidents, occurring in part due to the relatively high concentrations of oil refineries, offshore installations, and chemical plants, coupled with the fact that there are numerous navigational hazards and a high volume of tanker traffic: about 30% of the world oil volumes pass through or originate from the region. Having considered the sensitive coastal ecosystems and the dependence of the sensitive economies in the region on the coastal resources, the countries, Island States and Territories in this region are fully aware of the risks involved. It would not be beyond the bounds of probability for a large scale incident to occur in the Caribbean Sea.
Due to this awareness, States and Territories have produced, or are in the process of producing national contingency plans, setting-up organizations for counter pollution measures, ratifying and implementing conventions, conducting training and exercises, and enhancing co-operation with industry. Despite this, the level of preparedness for oil spills varies greatly throughout the region. Furthermore, many of the States and Territories have not ratified the relevant international conventions. Based on the close geographic proximity and similar economic situations of the region, ratification of the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response, and Cooperation, 1990 (OPRC 1990) would enhance and promote direct regional cooperation in combating Oil Spills. To facilitate this goal and to promote local preparedness in response to oil spills, the Regional Island States and Territories requested that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) establish and support a regional center.
The Regional Marine Pollution Emergency, Information and Training Center Wider Caribbean (RAC/REMPEITC-Caribe) is a Regional Activity Center based in Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. The center is designed to help countries in the Wider Caribbean Region and Latin America prevent and respond to major pollution incidents in the marine environment.
In the early nineties, the Regional Island States and Territories requested that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) support and establish a regional center to achieve the goal of oil spill preparedness and to promote co-operation, training and exercises. It was also requested in March 1994 during the IMO/IPIECA Conference in Curacao, to consolidate the then ten-year existence of the IMO Consultant on oil pollution preparedness in Puerto Rico, and to have a Regional Maritime Pollution Emergency Information and Training Center for the Wider Caribbean Region. The Seventh Intergovernmental Meeting of the Action Plan and the Fourth Meeting of the Contracting Parties of the Cartagena Convention and Protocols, in December 1994, took this decision, based on the initiative of the Netherlands Antilles and the proposal of the Netherlands, the United States (USCG) and the Netherlands Antilles, and accepted on a provisional basis, the establishment of the Regional Marine Maritime Pollution Emergency Information and Training Center (REMPEITC-Carib) in Curacao and requested IMO and UNEP to consider means to sustain the operation of the Center and to develop the necessary institutional arrangements.
The Center was opened on the 15th of June 1995, within the framework of the Caribbean Environmental Programme (UNEP-CAR/RCU), and with the support of the governments of the Netherlands Antilles, the Netherlands and the United States of America. Seconded officers to the Center have been appointed by the Governments of France, the Netherlands, and the United States. The U.S. has seconded a U. S. Coast Guard officer to RAC/REMPEITC-Caribe since 1995. The Government of the Netherlands had also seconded a consultant from 1995 to 2001, at which time the Dutch government ended their consultancy support. At the completion of the Dutch secondment, the Government of France, in cooperation with the French oil company TOTAL, seconded an officer to assist the Center. The first French consultant arrived in March 2002. In September 2005, the Venezuelan Government seconded an officer in cooperation with Refineria Isla Curacao B.V.
“To be the leading Organization in promoting and facilitating international cooperation and regional assistance to States, for the development and maintenance of their full capability to respond effectively to marine pollution incidents involving oil, hazardous and noxious substances, and other marine environmental threats from ships and thus contribute to the sustainability of the marine environment in the Wider Caribbean Region.”
“To assist countries to develop their national capabilities to implement the Cartagena Convention Oil Spill Protocol, the OPRC 1990 Convention and other IMO Conventions and Protocols relevant to preparedness for and response to oil, hazardous and noxious substances releases, and other marine environmental threats from ships in the Wider Caribbean Region.”
“RAC/REMPEITC-Caribe operates to the highest standards of diligence in all relationships and fosters a climate of cooperation based upon coordination and communication amongst the countries of the Wider Caribbean Region.”
RAC/REMPEITC-Caribe operates within the Cartagena Convention area, which represents the marine environment of the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea and the areas of the Atlantic Ocean adjacent thereto, south of 30 degrees north latitude and within 200 nautical miles of the Atlantic coasts of the States referred to in Article 25 of the Convention.
Countries include: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, France, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Kingdom of the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom, United States of America and Venezuela.