Risky fuelling at sea condemned

The works ministry says offshore bunkering (refuelling) has taken place for more than 20 years without pollution incidents in Namibia's marine protected areas.

03 December 2018 | Environment

Red flags have been raised after the works and transport ministry gave the green light for a fuelling operation at sea which took place close to Lüderitz within Namibia's most sensitive marine wildlife area.

The ministry says offshore bunkering (refuelling) has taken place for more than 20 years without pollution incidents in Namibia's marine protected areas (MPAs), including the Namibian Islands Marine Protected Area (Nimpa) and are only condoned with stringent risk assessments and safety standards in place.

A mining vessel, the MV Ya Toivo, was spotted being refuelled this month within the Nimpa, Namibia's only MPA, with the permission of the directorate of maritime affairs (DMA) within the works ministry, although the owners of the vessel have denied that the refuelling took place there.

This is the second refuelling of the MVA Ya Toivo that took place in the MPA and Nimpa this year, according to reports.

The Namibia Chamber of Environment's (NCE's) Christopher Brown and other scientists warn such operations always carry a risk and should only be condoned under exceptional circumstances.

“Bunkering at sea is a risky business, prone to accidents. This is why there is legislation to regulate this.”

Brown said although the vessel in question does not use heavy fuels “this cannot be dismissed as benign in the marine environment. Diesel is toxic to marine life, including seabirds.”

Brown stressed permits should only be issued “for unusual circumstances, not for routine convenience”.

According to the works ministry, “some large mining vessels, including the Ya Toivo, whose mining licences are in the MPA, regularly request permission for transferring fuel at their mining sites, mainly because of operational reasons.”

Ministry spokesperson Julius Ngweda said this is for example, to “avoid interrupting mining activities and thereby maximising mining effort”.

Brown said the NCE considered the issuing of permits to refuel within the usually 50 nautical mile off-limit refuelling zone “highly irresponsible”.

He described the Nimpa as one of the richest and most vulnerable coastal biodiversity sites in Namibia.

The MPA is listed as an ecologically and biologically significant marine area under the Convention on Biological Diversity, of which Namibia is a signatory.

High-profile species include the critically endangered Cape gannet, the endangered African penguin which breeds on Halifax Island, and the endangered black cormorant.

While legislation prohibits offshore bunkering at sea within 50 nautical miles (about 93 kilometres) off the coast to protect sensitive marine areas, the DMA may grant permission for offshore bunkering under certain circumstances.

The off-limit zone is there for a “good reason,” Brown explained, as any spills at or beyond this distance from the coast is extremely unlikely to reach and pollute the protected marine wildlife areas.

“These distances and the likely movement of oils in the sea were modelled as part of the detailed studies undertaken at the time of early off-shore oil exploration in that area.”



Not wise

Ngweda said offshore bunkering which has been taking place for two decades near Lüderitz and within the MPA without incident is due mainly “because of the effectiveness of the international and local regimes governing offshore bunkering operations.”

He said most mining vessels have mining inspectors on board to enforce mining and other laws, including those related to the protection of the marine and coastal environment.

But scientists argue that mining inspectors are not adequately trained to deal with pollution or ecological risks and are not even familiar with the concept of MPA's.

The ministry's assurances that ministry officials may also be assigned to observe bunkering operations from start to finish, and through technical systems, was dismissed as taking place rarely, if at all.

Ngweda concluded that permits would not be issued for operations deemed too risky and each application is considered on its own merits.



Questions

Brown says another concern is the transport ministry's lack of consultation with relevant stakeholders, including the ministry of environment and the fisheries ministry.

Environment ministry spokesperson Romeo Muyunda confirmed last week that bunkering in Namibian waters is a listed activity which requires an environmental clearance certificate.

He said the environment ministry was investigating whether such a certificate had been issued for the bunkering operation.



'Inaccurate'

The IMDH Group, the owner of MV Ya Toivo, denied that the bunkering operation took place close to or within a protected area.

The group's Paolo Esposito said reports of the vessel's position near Halifax and within the Nimpa were “factually incorrect.”

He said the operation took place “beyond the 10 nautical miles from the shoreline”.

However, online tracking systems confirm the location of the Ya Toivo during the operation on 26 November was 26°36'5.11”S, 14°55'30.97”E, approximately 16 km from Halifax Island and 16 km from Dias Point, unless the on-board positioning systems were out of order.

“Any operations conducted by our vessels follow strict environmental procedures and reporting, which are approved, amongst others, by the Namibian authorities and the international classification society,” Esposito underlined.

He said operations were always “conducted in accordance with international anti-spillage best practice prevailing regulations at all times. Thus, no risk is posed to the marine environment due to the equipment deployed during operations and the highly skilled personnel undertaking the task”.

Brown said the NCE recommends that no bunkering should be permitted, as per legislation, within the 50 nautical mile limit, except for “extremely specific and justifiable reasons”.

The NCE further said exceptions should be granted only in close consultation with relevant stakeholders and strict monitoring guidelines in place.

JANA-MARI SMITH

Similar News

 

Missing hiker alive and well

3 days ago - 20 May 2019 | Environment

ELLANIE SMIT A 31-year-old Namibian, who went missing last week while hiking in a park in California, has been found alive and well. There was...

Stray lions kill three cattle

3 days ago - 20 May 2019 | Environment

ILENI NANDJATOTwo stray lions killed three cattle last week in the grazing area near the Ongandjera salt pan at Okakewa.Okakewa is situated near Amarika in...

Budget cuts bite parks

3 days ago - 20 May 2019 | Environment

The tourism ministry is experiencing major challenges with the maintenance and the upgrading of infrastructure in protected areas, due to budget cuts. Deputy tourism minister...

Environment ministry steps up inspections

3 days ago - 20 May 2019 | Environment

The environment ministry stepped up its inspections during the 2018/19 financial year, despite ongoing government financial woes, and issued 39 compliance orders to those in...

Behati fights for Namibia's rhino

6 days ago - 17 May 2019 | Environment

Supermodel Behati Prinsloo is back in her motherland in an effort to help save the rhino which in recent years has been increasingly targeted by...

Trophy hunting at death's door

1 week ago - 15 May 2019 | Environment

The financial contribution of trophy hunting to conservation in Africa is insignificant, and the practice could soon become an anachronism. According to a new...

Illegal wood valued at N$900k

1 week ago - 14 May 2019 | Environment

Illegally harvested wood to the value of N$895 551 was sold at public auctions during the 2018/19 financial year.This is according to a technical paper...

Wild animals put livestock, people at risk

1 week ago - 14 May 2019 | Environment

The ministry of environment and tourism has reported that many of the wild animals that escaped from Etosha National Park last few months have returned...

March against timber harvesting

1 week ago - 13 May 2019 | Environment

The Namibian Environment and Wildlife Society (NEWS) held a peaceful demonstration against illegal timber harvesting in Windhoek on Saturday.The demonstration follows reports of illegal timber...

Arrest timber looters - Ndeitunga

2 weeks ago - 09 May 2019 | Environment

Police chief Sebastian Ndeitunga has instructed his regional officers to arrest those who continue to engage in unlawful logging.This follows a letter from environment ministry...

Latest News

Namibian pleads not guilty to...

32 minutes ago | Justice

A Namibian student studying in America has pleaded not guilty to the sexual assault charges he faces, including the exploitation of a minor. In...

Malaria cases drop

32 minutes ago | Health

Cases of malaria have dropped significantly in the two Kavango regions, with only 1 120 cases recorded so far this year, while over 6 000...

Students taken for a ride

32 minutes ago | Columns

The plight of poor Namibian students has always been a hot topic in the media. Many have been barred from writing exams at tertiary institutions...

Worst drought since 1930

32 minutes ago | Disasters

Low rainfall in the Khomas Region has plunged the area around Windhoek into the second worst drought in a century. Several other regions are...

Government woes hit VTC graduations

32 minutes ago | Education

Graduation ceremonies at government vocational training centres have been placed on hold since last year, because of ongoing economic woes. This is according to...

Katrina's lawyer plays political card

32 minutes ago | Justice

Education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, who stands accused of corruption, will hear on Monday, 8 July whether the court has found her guilty. Concluding...

Internships back in govt

32 minutes ago | Government

Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila has directed the lifting of the internship programme ban in the public sector from 1 June.She instructed in a notice that...

Submit forms or face farm...

32 minutes ago | Agriculture

The agriculture ministry has urged farmers to urgently submit their outstanding animal health declaration forms, saying a failure to submit them can result in farm...

Police nab eight drug suspects

32 minutes ago | Crime

Eight suspects were arrested this past weekend for allegedly being in possession of illegal narcotics, including crack cocaine.The majority of the arrests were made in...

Load More