A validation workshop on the Revised National Oil Spill Contingency Plan 2023 (NOSCP) for the Republic of Mauritius was held, on Monday at Caudan Arts Centre, in the presence of the Minister of Environment, Solid Waste Management and Climate Change, Mr Kavydass Ramano.
Minister Ramano recalled that contingency planning is an essential part of risk management adding that responding to a major oil spill demands quick decision making as the crisis situation unfolds. According to him, this can only be achieved if all organisations and individuals involved are sufficiently prepared to understand the crisis and make crucial decisions to mobilise appropriate resources in the minimal delay. Hence the need for a fully developed Oil Spill Contingency Plan to achieve this goal, he said.
He further pointed out that with the increase in maritime trade and bulk traffic in our waters, the risk of vessel accidents has increased.
According to a report of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace entitled ‘Mapping the Indian Ocean Region’ (June 2023), it is estimated that almost 90 000 vessels, carrying 9.84 billion tons of cargo, pass through the Indian Ocean annually and 40 percent of the global oil production transit through this region. These oil transfers represent potential threat to the marine environment in case of accidents, he added.
Minister Ramano also dwelt on the need to update the NOSCP in a bid to protect human health, prevent serious ecological disasters and socio-economic disruption from the ever-present risk of oil spills. He observed that the heavy maritime traffic in the region coupled with the current changing sea climate and conditions due to the accelerating climate change impacts have made it essential to strengthen a number of areas related to oil spill response and preparedness.
He recalled that four important deliverables produced under the Facilité D’Amorçage, de Préparation et de Suivi des Projets, of the Agence Française de Development for the enhancement of oil spill response in Mauritius and Rodrigues have been validated. These are, namely: an Oil Spill Waste Management Plan; a Volunteer Coordination Plan; a framework to assess the socioeconomic impacts; and a report on an audit of oil spill equipment. He stated that these deliverables will now further consolidate the new NOSCP 2023 and provide for a more structured and efficient response to an oil spill event.
Speaking about the new version of the NOSCP 2023, Minister Ramano highlighted that it is a single document comprising of three parts, as follows: the Strategy for preparedness; Operational Procedures to prevent and respond to oil spill incident; and Appendices providing technical information on oil spill response, thus making this updated version more user-friendly.
Furthermore, he said that the new version of the NOSCP 2023 is based on the Incident Management System which allows agencies to work together to develop response strategies to respond to an oil spill. He informed that it also has a new Tiered Response Concept, where the environmental sensitivity of the affected area as well as the risk/probability of higher impacts of the spilled oil are also taken into consideration.
Also present at the workshop, the Senior Economist of the United Nations Resident Coordinator’s Office for Mauritius and Seychelles, Mr Sebastian Vauzelle, reiterated the urgent need to update the Plan since it is important to be prepared to respond effectively to protect the marine environment and the livelihood of coastal communities. He also spoke of the need to strengthen local capacities to respond to such catastrophes and to build resilience of communities.