Eromosele Abiodun tasks the federal government to implement the outcome of a regional conference that seeks to promote mechanical response to oil spill and protect fisheries and other aquatic species in the marine environment

On 28 October 2016 in Hobart, Australia, the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources agreed to establish the first Antarctic and largest Marine Park in the world encompassing 1.55 million km2 (600,000 sq mi) in the Ross Sea. Other large Marine Protection Areas (MPAs) are in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic Oceans in certain exclusive economic zones of Australia and overseas territories of France, the United Kingdom and the United States, with major (990,000 square kilometres (380,000 sq mi) or larger) new or expanded MPAs by these nations since 2012—such as Natural Park of the Coral Sea, Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands Marine Protected Area. When counted with MPAs of all sizes from many other countries, as of August 2016 there are more than 13,650 MPAs, encompassing 2.07 per cent of the world’s oceans, with half of that area – encompassing 1.03 per cent of the world’s oceans –receiving complete “no-take” designation.

Marine protected areas are protected areas of seas, oceans, estuaries or large lakes. MPAs restrict human activity for a conservation purpose, typically to protect natural or cultural resources. Such marine resources are protected by local, state, territorial, native, regional, national, or international authorities and differ substantially among and between nations. This variation includes different limitations on development, fishing practices, fishing seasons and catch limits, moorings and bans on removing or disrupting marine life.

In some situations (such as with the Phoenix Islands Protected Area), MPAs also provide revenue for countries, potentially equal to the income that they would have if they were to grant companies permissions to fish. In Nigeria, the absence of MPA and regular oil spill has almost destroyed the means of livelihood of many in the Niger Delta. To reverse the trend, stakeholders recently organised a regional conference on marine safety and fisheries protection to put the matter on the front burner and provide solutions.

The conference was put together with the support of the Norwegian government and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).

Protecting the Environment
Speaking at the conference, the Norwegian government and the UNITAR called on the federal government to enhance national contingency plans and invest in relevant equipment to ensure effective oil spill prevention and protect the environment to future generations.
The Norwegian Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Jens-Petter Kjemprud pointed out the past oil spills in Nigeria were preventable.

He stated that while Norway has been involved in oil exploration for decades, the worst oil spill in its history was the Ekofisk Bravo spill in 1077, which he stated was the first serious uncontrolled oil blowout offshore.
“It exposed serious deficiencies in the country’s defence against such pollution and the expertise of an American specialist had to be called upon to control the well. In this part of the world along the coast from South Africa to Nigeria, a handful of incidents have happened at sea over the years, most of them because of accidents with oil tankers outside South Africa, one of the busiest ship routs in the world. Accidents like the Bonga accident of 2011 have also happened at offshore installations in Nigeria,” he stated.

Kjemprud added that Nigeria is blessed with rich marine resources and the country must continue to find ways through which activities regarding oil exploration would not hamper its biodiversity. He charged participants to use the opportunity provided by the conference to deliberate on how to strengthen regional cooperation when major accidents occur.

On his part, Country Head and Resident Representative/UNITAR Nigeria Office, Lawrence Boms said there are great benefits for the entire region if the abundant economic opportunities existing in the area spreading across the Gulf of Guinea to the Cape in South Africa are tapped sustainably.

Boms, who is also the Area Security Coordinator, United Nations System in Nigeria said the region’s riches in oil and other marine resource and the viability of the marine for shipping present so much economic possibilities.
“According to statistics, the region accounts for 3000 ships passing annually with an estimated 140 million tons of oil. The combination of oil, marine resources and shipping can help propel economic prosperity in ways that it would be of benefits to businesses, government and the people,” he added.

Oil Sill Danger
Speaking on the danger of oil spill, the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr Dakuku Peterside stated that every economic activity has environmental consequence.
“Environmental destruction has a very long term effect. Crude oil is Nigeria’s economic mainstay; its exploration has a major effect on the environment whether onshore or offshore. As we push to grow our economy by exploring for oil we destroy the environment and the very factors that sustain life,” he said.

Peterside stressed the need for concerted and collaborative efforts of all stakeholders towards the conservation and sustainable use of ocean resources for the protection of the environment and indeed the entire ecosystem.
The DG said that the activities of oil exploration and resultant oil spills whether onshore or offshore can continuously hamper the ecosystem.

Peterside also noted that Nigeria is blessed with abundant aquatic resources including rare species of fishes but lamented that while the sea is being exploited for various economic purposes, not much attention is paid to the sustainability of the environment.

In his words: “While tapping into the resources of our marine environment for economic advancement, care must be taken to ensure the perseveration of the environment or else wealth becomes useless if our environment is damaged.”
Peterside equally frowned at the indiscriminate use of dispersants to clean up oils spill adding that NIMASA as the Government regulatory Agency in conjunction with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), has a list of approved dispersants.

Specifically, he said: “Before the usage of dispersants, we must consider the chemical composition and the attendant effect of its breakdown to the marine environment and of course the ecosystem.”

Other speakers at the event were the Lagos State Commissioner for Agriculture, Hon. Oluwatoyin Suarau represented by Mr. Emmanuel Audu, Executive Director of the Nigerian Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research Dr. Gbola Akande amongst other notable maritime stakeholders.

The conference is borne out of the need to promote mechanical response to oil spill and protect fisheries and other aquatic species in the marine environment for the benefit of the west and central Africa sub-region.

Environmental Consequences
In his paper titled: “Environmental Consequences of Oil Spills on Marine Habitats and the Mitigating Measures – the Niger Delta Perspective,” Mr Etiese Etuk Akpan of Clean Nigeria Associates Limited said oil spills in the marine environment could have wide spread impact and long-term consequences on wildlife, fisheries, coastal and marine habitats, human health and livelihood, as well as recreational resources of coastal communities and the ancestral heritage.

“Oil spill effects on fish, sea birds and other marine life are mostly due to the smothering and physical contamination or due to the toxicity of the chemical components of the oil. The fisheries and mariculture sector are impacted by the physical oiling of equipment and contamination of seafood leading to tainting and the effects on commercial and subsistence fisheries lead to substantial losses,” he said.

He added that the repercussions of contaminated seafood on public perception is very serious and requires restoration of market confidence and public health assurances.

He added: “The impact of oil spills on coastal and marine environments can be both short and long term. The degree of the damage caused by an oil spill event depends primarily upon the quantity of oil spilt, the chemistry and properties (type) of the oil and the sensitivity of the biological resources impacted.”

Akpan stated that oil spillage is a major environmental challenge in Nigeria especially in the Niger Delta region which harbours the operations of the most major oil companies in Nigeria. According to him, “The Government of Nigeria is statutorily obliged by section 20 of the constitution to protect the environment from oil spill. Section 20 of the Constitution provides that “The State SHALL protect and improve the environment and safeguard the water, air, and land, forest and wild life of Nigeria,”

“Unavoidably, between 1970 and 2016 Nigeria recorded thousands of oil spill incidents, which resulted in loss of millions of barrels of oil to the environment which led to devastating environmental degradations; precipitate extensive and damaging environmental pollution which progressively destroyed farmlands and marine habitats. Available records for the period 1976 to 1996 indicated that approximately 6 per cent, 25 per cent, and 69 per cent of total oil spilled in the Niger Delta area, were in land, swamp and offshore environments respectively.”
He added, “Some major spills in the coastal zone are the GOCON’s Escravos spill in 1978 of about 300,000 barrels, SPDC’s Forcados Terminal tank failure in 1978 of about 580,000 barrels and Texaco Funiwa-5 blow out in 1980 of about 400,000 barrels. Other oil spill incidents are those of the Abudu pipe line in 1982 of about 18,818 barrels. The most publicized of all oil spills in Nigeria occurred on January 17 1980 when a total of 218,935 barrels of crude oil got spilled into the environment; this spill occurred as a result of a blow out at Funiwa 5 offshore station (which led to the establishment of Clean Nigeria Associates in 1981). Others are the Jesse Fire Incident which claimed about a thousand lives and the Idoho Oil Spill of January 1998, of about 40,000 barrels.”

Recovery/Mitigation
Akpan stressed that the negative effects of oil spill may eventually fade away, but in many cases the long term effects remain several years after, sometimes even decades, before an area or ecosystem will fully recovered from a spill that caused extensive damages.

He added that the seriousness of oil spill impact is mostly a function of the speed of recovery of the damaged habitats and species.

Recovery, he added, depends upon both the removal of oil which is toxic from the environment and restoring the ecosystem, by replanting, introduction of cultured species threatened by extinction.

He said: “The key parameter for evaluating recovery success, is the reproductive success of the survivors, the influx of larvae, eggs, juveniles or adults present in the oil impacted area. The seriousness of impact and the speed of recovery of the affected habitats and species following an oil spill will to a large extent be determined by factors such as the oil type, oil thickness onshore, type of ecosystem, local geography, climate/season, the vulnerability and sensitivity of the species, biological and physical characteristics of the area and the type of clean up response strategy adopted.

“Generally, recovery will proceed faster in warmer climates and on rocky shores compared to cold climates for example, marshes. The long-term effects on deeper bottoms (i.e., if oil sinks and is absorbed in bottom sediments) is also a matter of concern.”

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Bala Usman: Ports and Conference Will Position African Maritime for Efficiency
The Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala-Usman in this interview said the NPA is hosting the International Association of Ports and Harbours World Port Conference because it will provide the opportunity to market the port industry in Nigeria.

What is the international Association of Ports and Harbours ((IAPH))?
The IAPH was formed in 1955 and over the last 60 years it has grown into a global alliance representing 180 members ports and 140 port related businesses in 90 countries. The IAPH was established to promote interest of ports worldwide, build strong member relationship and share international best practices
How did Nigeria achieve hosting right for the conference?

Nigeria was awarded the hosting right because of my election last year as Vice President representing Africa on the IAPH Governing Board. This is a testament of the recognition of Nigeria’s effort in building a virile maritime industry locally and cooperating with other nations to do same Nigeria, being a frontline maritime nation has been at the forefront of promoting collaboration between ports all over the continent of Africa. The country plays host to the headquarters of Port Management of West and Central Africa (PMWACA) and have over the years hosted technical committee meetings of the association and the women network of same association . Also by the volume of trade of the nation being handled by six major port locations and the on-coming development of two major deep sea ports, Nigeria has done well in building port infrastructure that has positioned it to be the hub for west and central Africa.

Of what benefit is it to Nigeria to host an international conference of this magnitude?
The conference is bringing together ports from all over Africa and other international organisations to look at the challenge of hinterland connectivity in the continent. This will be of immense interest to Nigeria, as it is an issue we are grappling with and at the moment we command the largest economy in Africa. The conference is also going to attract major investors in the maritime industry from all over the world and with the attendance of our major partners, terminal operators and JV companies, the potentials of the port industry in Nigeria will be marketed. This will in turn engender an increase in foreign direct investment (FDI) and improve the patronage of our ports.

It is an international event, where do we expect to see participants come from
We are going to see participants from key organisations like World Trade Organisation, International Maritime Organisation, UNCTAD, Various African trade corridors including the Lagos Abidjan Trade corridor and the Walvis Bay corridor group. We also have international ports like the Antwerp Port Authority, Guangzhou Port Authority, Port of Miami Florida and African Ports such as Transnet National Port Authority (South Africa ), Kenya port Authority, Douala Port Authority Cameroon , Cotonou Port Authority Benin and Abidjan Port Authority Coted’ Ivoire. Others are Dakar Port Authority Senegal,Tanger Med Port Morocco and, Damietta Port Egypt. To say the least, we have ports coming from all over Africa. It promises to be an event that will lift the face of maritime trade in Africa and specifically expose the potentials of the Nigerian maritime industry to investors