"We need better communication between the private sector and government agencies to ensure prompt disaster response," Phuket Marine Biological Centre director Pinsak Suraswadi told a recent seminar.
He said officials from the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, which overseas the Phuket centre, only learned about the PTT Global Chemical (PTTGC) oil spill through media reports.
About 50,000 litres of crude oil leaked into the Gulf of Thailand from a PTTGC pipeline on July 27. The oil slick spread to Koh Samet two days later, damaging the island's tourism and fishery businesses.
"Authorities should be alerted about such incidents much sooner so that we can help contain the damage," Mr Pinsak told the seminar, held by the National Research Council on Thursday to discuss the oil spill's aftermath.
He also said authorities needed better training and equipment to be able to contain major oil spills.
"High-tech equipment such as underwater cameras will help marine biologists evaluate the seriousness of any incident and reduce risks to marine officials from toxic substances," Mr Pinsak said.
The Pollution Control Department's water quality management office director, Rangsan Pinthong, conceded state agencies were too slow in responding to the PTTGC oil spill.
"State agencies went into action late because they expected PTTGC would be able to handle the situation, but in fact they could not," he said.
"It seemed as though PTTGC expected the government would help it handle the pollution's effects, while the government expected PTTGC would handle the issue alone."
Mr Rangsan added that a lack of clarity in each agency's scope of responsibilities contributed to inefficient management of the oil spill.
Pakorn Prasertwong, chief of the Marine Department's environmental division, complained about a lack of manpower and equipment to deal with large-scale pollution crises.
He said the department has only 16 staff and two boats available on stand-by to deal with a marine crisis such as an oil spill.
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