Oil spill preparedness tested

Officials from Angola, South Africa and Namibia are ­testing the readiness of their countries to cooperate and respond adequately in the event of an oil spill.

11 August 2019 | Ministries

Willem Goeiemann; Executive director of works and transport; “Without sustainable funding the National Plan for oil spill preparedness cannot be operationalised…”

Walvis Bay • Otis Finck

Namibia hosted a transboundary training workshop on oil spill preparedness and table-top exercise in Walvis Bay from 6 to 9 August.

The executive director of works and transport, Willem Goeiemann, told delegates in a speech presented on his behalf by Robert Kalomho, acting director of maritime affairs, that the country is working towards finalising binding national cooperative arrangements between relevant government institutions to promote cooperation and coordination in the implementation of the national plan for oil spill preparedness.

Goeiemann said Namibia is also exploring options for a sustainable funding model that places emphasis on the potential polluter rather than the taxpayer.

“Without sustainable funding, the national plan for oil spill preparedness cannot be operationalised or reviewed regularly, key personnel cannot be trained, and equipment cannot be bought and deployed.”

He encouraged the exercise observers to make a frank and thorough assessment of the exercise, and said the interventions will no doubt significantly contribute to effective trans-boundary oil spill preparedness and response arrangements in Namibia and the subregion.

“This workshop is timely because it comes in the face of a changing oil spill risk profile. We have been ­considering modalities for strengthening sub-­regional arrangements and partnerships for transboundary pollution ­response and mutual assistance within the Benguella Current Commission (BCC) area.”

Goeiemann said the objectives of the workshop and exercise were to expose participants to key issues related to transboundary oil spill incidents, and train them on existing transboundary arrangements and topics related to the exercise.

Communication links between ­Angola and Namibia, assistance mechanisms and mobilisation of international resources were also to be tested, as well as the national plans of the two countries in the case of a transboundary spill incident.

“Marine pollution, especially oil spills, by its own design knows no international boundaries. No single nation can respond to a large oil pollution incident without assistance of other states. A number of valuable lessons were learned from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill incident in the Gulf of Mexico.”

A transboundary oil spill exercise held with Angola preceded the workshop on transboundary oil spill preparedness and response.

Goeiemann said the ultimate objective of this exercise must be to improve rather than impress.

The tabletop exercise, organised by the Global Initiative for West, Central and Southern Africa (GI WACAF) Project in cooperation with national authorities in charge of oil spill preparedness, was hosted simultaneously in Luanda and Walvis Bay on 8 and 9 August to test cooperation mechanisms in the subregion.

The proposed scenario involved a collision between a fully loaded tanker and a container ship offshore Namibia, which resulted in the release of a significant amount of persistent oil at sea.

This occasion served the purpose to put lessons learned into practise and to concretely test cooperation mechanisms in the subregion.

These included communication links between the two countries and South Africa, assistance mechanisms, the mobilisation of international resources, and the provisions of the respective national plans in the case of a transboundary oil spill incident.

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