Gqeberha. 18 October 2023
After a long delay occasioned by the devastating outbreak of the global Covid-19 pandemic in December 2019 that led to intermittent national shutdowns for over two years, the rollout of a public awareness campaign about South Africa’s national oil spill contingency plan (NOSCP) is finally underway, with the two Indian Ocean commercial ports of Gqeberha, Eastern Cape province being the first to host the rollout.
Conducted by the South Africa Interim Incident Management Organisation (IMorg) the NOSCP roadshow kicked off at the port of Gqurha, in Algoa Bay near Gqeberha (a.k.a Port Elizabeth) on Tuesday and continued on Wednesday.
Attended by more than 80 people on Tuesday, including representatives of key role players such as the Department of Transport (DoT), South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE), the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), environmental organisations and related, according to IMorg, the purpose of the roadshows is to inform and enhance public awareness about the revised NOSCP for the 2019-2024 period, and attendant response strategies to oil spills and related incidents at South Africa’s oceans.
The IMOrg, a virtual organisation chaired by the DoT and SAMSA as the co-chair and secretariat, is South Africa’s preparedness forum for joint Government and ndustry response to oil spills within South Africa’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of approximately 1.5-million km² across the Atlantic, Southern and Indian Oceans.
Launched in 2017, as a deliverable of the Operation Phakisa Oil and Gas laboratory B1 initiative, for joint Government – industry emergency drills, IMOrg’s membership is drawn broadly from across various sectors of society inclusive of State departments, private sector industries as well as non-governmental institutions.
According to Capt. Ravi Naicker of the SAMSA Centre for Sea Watch and Response, and the entity’s main representative in IMorg, the DoT has a legal responsibility of providing and fulfilling South Africa’s statutory obligations towards marine pollution prevention response along the country’s coastline of more than 3 000 kilometres. This in terms of powers provided in the Marine Pollution (Control and Civil Liability) Act 6 of 1981, Marine Pollution (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 2 of 1986 and in the Marine Pollution (Intervention) Act 64 of 1987.
“These Acts impose obligations on ships and installations and further give power in respect of pollution casualties in so far as pollution occurs, or threatens to occur within waters under South African jurisdiction, being waters comprising the internal and territorial waters, the exclusive economic zone, etc.
“The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) is the main international convention covering prevention of pollution of the marine environment by ships from operational or accidental causes.
“Domestically, the Constitution (Act No. 108 of 1996: Section 24 of the Bill of Rights): provides that everyone has a right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being and to have the environment protected for the benefit of the present and future generations through reasonable legislative and other measures.
“The latter section illustrates clearly that the government has a legal obligation to protect the environment through the development and the implementation of the Plan to fulfil this obligation amongst other statutory legislative measures put in place.
“These rights and obligations are embedded in the supreme law in South Africa, which is the Constitution and affords every citizen access to petition a competent court of law to hear the matter and enforce their rights or perceived violations.
“Furthermore, the 2017 version of the South African Comprehensive Maritime Transport Policy makes provision for the DoT, in co-operation with other Departments and agencies, to maintain a comprehensive Contingency Plan to ensure compliance with the provisions of the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation, 1990 (OPRC),” he says.
On what the revised NOSCP now entails and why it is important to enhance public awareness about its provisions, Capt. Naicker says the implementation framework is critical for broad public knowledge and understanding.
The framework, he says, outlines a range of issues including the role and responsibilities of the persons and parties involved in a national response to a marine oil spill in South Africa, relevant information and recommended procedures on appropriate action in the event of an oil spill, arrangements allowing for a rapid and co-operative response to marine oil spills within defined areas, and processes related to the provision of national and international support.
“The NOSCP recognizes that no two incidents are ever the same and therefore the level and intensity of a response varies from incident to incident. The plan is complemented by Government and Industry contingency plans prepared at regional, port and facility levels. Matters of detail are contained in local, site specific, contingency plans,” he says.
A most critical aspect of the NOSCP, according to Capt. Naicker, is the adoption, introduction, and application in South Africa of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) endorsed Incident Management System (IMS) and about which, he says; offers “..a well-structured and inclusively accepted offshore oil spill response management system.’
The IMS scope covers incidents management aspects including the setting up of command structures, planning, operations, logistics and finance arrangement. Broken down into two categories, the IMS consists of three modules – IMS 100, 200 and 300 – involving desktop training of participants, and practical on-the-field real time incident management training in simulated oil spill exercises at sea.
To date, more than 50 people have undertaken the training, conducted variously by international experts including the Global Initiative for West, Central and Southern African (GI-WACAF) Project, International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association (IPIECA).
On why the IMorg’s NOSCP roadshow started in the Algoa Bay ports of Ngqurha and Port Elizabeth, Capt. Naicker says this was based on IMOrg’s recommendations that environmentally highly sensitive ports be prioritised, a stance fully supported by especially environmental groups such as the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB).
The Algoa Bay’s high risk profile for oil spill contingency plans is based both on the existence and operations of two major commercial ports and a ship-to-ship bunkering operation in the area and alongside which are a diverse wildlife including bird colonies.
For this blog’s brief chat with Capt. Naicker, click on the video below.
For a brief chat with SANCCOB’s representative at the Ngqurha port leg of the roadshow, Ms Monica Stassen click below.
For a brief chat with DFFE & IMOrg official, Ms Feroza Albertus.