Norwegian Embassy, UNITAR Hold Conference on Marine Safety

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The Norwegian Embassy in Nigeria and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) will hold a two-day International Conference on Marine Safety and Fisheries Protection for professionals from governments, regulatory agencies, private sector, and other relevant stakeholders in Lagos from July 13 –14, 2017.

A statement from UNITAR said the key goal of the conference was to highlight environmental issues connecting to oil spill and facilitate discussion on the deployment of mechanical tools rather than the use of chemical dispersants as a first response. “The conference will provide opportunity to deliberate on how to strengthen regional cooperation when huge accidents occur, discuss how national contingency plans can be followed up to invest in relevant equipment, and training, and facilitate discussions between public and private sectors to enhance effective oil spill prevention and responses through mechanical means. Series of conferences have been planned to sensitize critical stakeholders in West, Central and Southern Africa region on this important issue. The regional conference in Lagos is the first of the series.

“The West, Central and Southern Africa region has a great potential for economic growth and sustainable development. The offshore oil producing countries in the region and areas spreading across the Gulf of Guinea to the Cape in South Africa is one of the most important sea routes in the world, accounting for more than 3000 ships passing annually with an estimated 140 million tons of oil. Offshore oil producers like Angola produces about 1.8 million barrels a day – all offshore and also deep sea, while Nigeria has eight deep sea production blocks producing almost 700.000 barrels a day, in addition to production in shallow waters.

 “Smaller productions are also found in other countries in the region such as Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ghana, and Congo, among others. The richness of the marine environment in the region in fisheries resources and other sea animals is also evident. If well harnessed, the oil and the marine resources have the capacities to jumpstart economic prosperities in the region and promote the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SGS) 2030.

“However, despite the benefits of the oil sector and maritime industry, the presence of oil platforms offshore and shipping activities can have serious consequences on humans, the entire marine environment, and socio-economic activities. Most especially, offshore drilling and shipping can generate marine pollution owing to oil spill whose effects can be highly detrimental in terms of survival of marine animals, particularly fish. Also, it has been observed that while “sea-bed activities on oil exploration and production constitute a relatively small part in the general amount of the pollution of marine environment with oil, the principal cause of marine pollution with oil is shipping”. These highlight the interactive impacts of oil exploration and shipping on marine environment and safety. Oil spills have acute toxic effects on fish eggs and embryos and results in other reproductive and developmental abnormalities. The use of chemicals as a first response to the spill jeopardizes their survival. During oil spill fish can come into contact with the oil or chemical dispersants while swimming or through inhalation at water surface, which can lead to death.

“West, Central and Southern Africa region is particularly vulnerable since offshore oil production and shipping are major activities and an oil spill disaster would be catastrophic for the coastal environment and for the whole of the region because of the movement of the water’s current northwards along the coast.

“Therefore, an oil spill accident outside Southern and/or West Africa will be catastrophic for the coastal environment and for the whole of West Africa because of the movement of the water’s current northwards along the coast. Other factors that can jeopardize the situation in the region include issues such as: poor regulation of oil production and maritime activities; the question of transparency in the use of oil revenues; large scale bunkering of oil; activities of sea pirates; lack of capacities in the management of oil spills; reliance on chemicals rather than mechanical means in responding to spill incidents; and weak compliance with international standards such as the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation (OPRC 1990), which makes provisions for and highlights measures to prevent and deal with pollutions incidents from ships, among other factors”, UNITAR said.

The Global Initiative for West, Central and Southern Africa, a collaboration between the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the global oil and gas industry association for environmental and social issues (PIECA), have jointly launched an Emergency Response on Marine Pollution to address the challenges of oil pollution and environmental issues in the region, with Nigeria as the host country.