Cape Town: 11 May 2022
Capetonians in particular, and South Africans in general will be in for a spectacular live staging of an ocean ‘accidental’ oil spillage exercise off and near the port of Cape Town on Thursday and Friday this week.
The unusual exercise to involve aircraft, ocean going vessels, onshore vehicles and more than 100 personnel is, according to South Africa’s Interim Incident Management Organisation (IMOrg) part of an intensive multi-nationl exercise in ocean oil spillage incidents management training currently underway in the city of Cape Town since Monday, involving about 50 delegates from government, non government and private sector institutions in South Africa, Namibia and Angola.
According to IMOrg Project Manager, Captain Ravi Naicker, the sea exercise over the next two days, Thursday and Friday will be the final stage of the weeklong incident management training that began on Monday in Durbanville, with a desk-top classroom type engagement of the delegates on the globally acclaimed and International Maritime Organisation (IMO) approved Incident Management System (IMS) consisting of three modules; IMS 100, 200 and 300.
From a South African perspective, according to the IMOrg, the logic behind the initiative is fairly simple. Increased activity on the South African coastline of over 3900km (including the coastline around the Prince Edwards Islands) demands the country to be ready to attend to any emergency that might occur along its pristine coast.
Current estimates of shipping traffic in the three oceans around South Africa are that as many as 30 000 vessels sail through here annually, with many of the vessels laden with an excess of 30-million Dead-Weight-Tonnage of crude oil.
“A large-scale oil spill could potentially have catastrophic consequences on the marine environment. There is also offshore Oil and Gas exploration and Bunkering activities, therefore South Africa needs to ensure that while it seeks economic stability and prosperity it also ensures the protection of its natural biodiversity.
“To this end South Africa has adopted international best practice in incident management and is proactively and continuously preparing to manage marine pollution incidents effectively, ensuring that the appropriate resources and stakeholders are mobilised quickly – and important and timeous decisions made,” said Capt. Naicker.
Among the IMOrg guiding tools with the exercise is the country’s National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP),
In Cape Town on Thursday and Friday however, for training participants as well as spectators, the weather may play ball for clear visibility of the full-scale oil spill response deployment exercise scheduled for the stretch pieces of waterspace in the sea corridor between Robben Island to the north and the port of Cape Town.
However, according to Captain Naresh Sewnath, Senior Manager Pilotage & VTS at Transnet’s Chief Harbour Masters Office in Cape Town, the ‘Cape Doctor’ – a nickname for periodic gusty winds that batter this part of the world – would be just as welcome, if only to present truly testing weather conditions for the IMOrg multinational training exercise at sea over the next two days.
Capt. Sewnath gave assurance that not only was the port of Cape Town fully supportive of the incident management exercise in the area for its worth, but also that it would seek to ensure that normal shipping in and near the always busy port would not be negatively affected.
In the video below, Capt. Sewnath briefly chatted to this blog about the IMOrg training exercise and his institution’s take of it, while on a brief visit to the training venue in Durbanville a day ago.
Meanwhile, the Benguela Current Convention (BCC) first time sponsors of the IMOrg’s periodic IMS training exercise, has described its involvement in the exercise as not only strategic in terms of its own objectives, but also essential to the extent that pollution of the oceans environment in its area of operation remains a constant serious threat to the the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem (BCLME). In fact, according BCC South Africa National Projects Officer, Ms Tembisa Sineke, pollution is one of eight thematic areas in the BCC’s SAP.
“The reason for this is that marine pollution in the BCLME is increasing due to, among others, coastal zone urbanization, expanding shipping and offshore drilling and mining activities,” she said, adding that the three countries – South Africa, Namibia and Angola “are all involved in offshore petroleum exploration and production activities, whilst they also experience extensive maritime transport activities along their coasts. Furthermore, Namibia and South Africa are involved in offshore mining with vessels carrying significant quantities of oil.
“This ever-increasing use of the ocean space leads to increased risk of accidents that could result in marine pollution, especially from oil spills,” said.
For more on BCC’s viewpoint on the IMOrg training exercise and the necessity for its support, click on the video below: