The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Ghana Navy have started a series of training programmes aimed at ensuring their preparedness to act swiftly in the event of an oil spillage off the coast of the country.
The training follows the acquisition of a rigid inflatable boat by EPA. The boat was purchased under the Oil and Gas Capacity Building Project funded by the World Bank to support the monitoring of coastal waters.
As part of preparations towards the operation of the boat which will be manned by the Ghana Navy, EPA officers have undergone survival at sea training and are currently taking swimming lessons under the supervision of some naval personnel at the Naval Base in Sekondi.
They were taken through theoretical and practical lessons on how to inspect, don and maintain life jackets, boarding a life raft, immediate and subsequent action drills once they are onboard the raft, as well as other basic survival techniques which will be useful to them should the need arise.
Speaking in an interview, the Western Regional Chief Programmes Director of EPA, Mr Shine Fiagorme, said the new patrol boat would be used for inspection and first line emergency response in case of reports or suspicion of discharge of pollutants.
“In the event of an actual pollution incident, the boat will be equipped for collection of samples and photo documentation to secure proof of pollution,” he said.
He added that fishing and tourism were important industries in the coastal area. “The possible effects of oil industry on other industrial and economic interests are matters of concern, thereby making the emerging oil industry a major potential challenge to Ghana’s coastal population especially in an unlikely event of an oil spill” he said.
He explained that by being present at the scene of an accident or in an area where pollution was suspected or observed, rapid remedial action could be initiated.
Apart from that, he said, it was intended that the rigid hulled inflatable boat would provide a flexible rapid response capability for coastal monitoring control and surveillance.
“The boat will also be very useful in rescue operations because it has greater flexibility for full utilisation – by having a trailer which enables it to be transported by road for use in our rivers when need be,” he said.
Mr Fiagorme said in order to ensure that in an event of an oil spill the situation was properly managed, the EPA had been putting a lot of structures in place before, during and after the oil find in consultation with some of its key stakeholders.
That, he said, was because effective response management depended on good planning and co-operation.
Mr Fiagorme said Ghana had a National Oil Spill Contingency Plan which the EPA had played the lead role in drafting. It has appropriate systems for monitoring, rapid detection and reporting of spillage of oil.
The plan, he said, also considered possible incidents related to the operation of shipping, oil pipelines and all other installations, storage and transport facilities for oil which could result in such a spillage, and also prompt response to prevent pollution and/or restrict the spread of the contaminants.
He recounted that so far, the EPA had undertaken simulation exercises in respect of the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan with key stakeholders such as the Ghana Navy, Ghana Air Force, Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA), Ghana Maritime Authority and the Fisheries Commission.
He said six workers of the EPA had also participated in a simulation exercise at Bergen in Norway in 2011 which was organised by the Norwegian Coastal Administration.
“We hope to continue and sustain the environmental education and awareness programme. We also hope to review the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan in December 2014 and carry out simulation exercises. Industries will also be made to review their contingency plans,” he announced.
Source: daily graphic.