Interim Guinea Current Commission member states agree to harmonize use of Oil Spill dispersants use in the Guinea Current Large Marine Ecosystem.
“For those who don’t have a national policy, this meeting will help them craft a policy. We will also provide them useful background documents,” Dr Thomas Coolbaugh, chairman for the Global Initiative for West and Central Africa (GI WACAF) said at the end of the three-day workshop.
The meeting’s 49 delegates recommended that all countries should have a clear national policy describing the conditions of utilization of dispersants and draw up a pre-determined list of approved dispersants.
“Nigeria has a well defined policy,” said Roman Chancerel, project manager of the GI WACAF. He added that 13 of the 22 GI WACAF countries had documents describing the use of dispersants.
Delegates at the meeting were asked to send the list of approved dispersants validated by their countries to GI WACAF, one month before the organizations regional biennial conference 10-14 October in Lagos, Nigeria. GI WACAF will harmonize the list of dispersants available for use within the territorial waters of the region. The wrong use of chemical dispersants can cause massive damage to the environment that is being cleaned.
Information regarding national policies, stockpiles of dispersants and equipment availability shall be posted to the GI WACAF website for the use of member countries.
Potential for oil spills
Sea-based platforms are one of the major sources of actual and potential pollution in the Large Marine Ecosystems of West and Central Africa. Oil exploration and drilling has been expanding and, as in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, it holds the potential for major spills.
However, the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation says, “Most spills from tankers result from routine operations such as loading, discharging and bunkering which normally occur in ports or at oil terminals,”
Spills have a ruinous effect on marine life, coastal habitats, populations and business. The economic impacts of spills affect beach recreation activities, hotels and restaurants and mangroves and artisanal fisheries. Oil spills, such as those in the Niger Delta, also smother mangroves and toxins penetrate the soil. Natural recovery is a long-term proposition. Shipyards, ports and harbours, can also be disrupted by oil spills and clean-up operations, the Federation says.
The regional meeting, the first under the GCLME project, was not just about application of dispersants; it was also about preparing to anticipate and prevent oil spills and, where they occur, to act quickly in containing the damage. A regional dispersant policy is one way of contingency planning. Another is actually tackling spills quickly when they occur. In this respect GI WACAF has an Embraer Bandeirante twin-turboprop stationed at Kotoka International Airport, Accra, Ghana, to monitor, conduct surveillance and spraying of oils spills. The Brazilian-built light aircraft has a capacity to carry two tons of dispersants.
Aerial surveillance is a vital asset to marine oil spill response. It can locate, track the movement of an oil slick. The information from such surveillance can provide information critical to surface deployment and control operations at sea and along the coast.