Mozambique hosts oil spill response symposium


The Mozambique Oil Spill Response Symposium, co-hosted by the United States Africa Command Environmental Security Programme, the Joaquim Chissano Foundation (FJC) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) was held earlier this month at the Joaquim Chissano International Conference Centre in Maputo.

The FJC was founded in 2005 by the former president of Mozambique and is dedicated to the promotion of peace, economic development and Mozambican culture. The intent of the workshop was to establish a baseline of information on oil spill response theory, strategies and planning which promoted discussions over concerns of the government and non-government organisations.

More than 25 stakeholders participated in the workshop, which was opened by US Ambassador to Mozambique Douglas Griffiths and Dr Leonardo Simão, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Co-operation. Participants included representatives from the Forcas Armadas de Defesa de Mocambique (FADM), the Department of Risk and Disaster Management, Ministry of Environment, the Port Authority and members of NGO’s and Industry.
“The reason we conduct these workshops is to address appropriate procedures when a significant oil spill occurs which impacts maritime safety and security, and sensitive areas such as human health, environmental, economic and cultural sites,” said Jeff Andrews, USAFRICOM Environmental Security Programme manager.

According to John Owens, instructor and team technical leader, the frequency of major oil spills is down, but the impact of an oil spill can dramatically affect the environment, port operations and local economy.

In addition to discussions the workshop included presentations about the properties of oil, environmental sensitivity mapping, response strategies and clean-up methods. The group also toured the port of Maputo and discussed potential oil spill risks and emergency procedures.

To conclude the workshop the group participated in a facilitated table top exercise focusing on a simulated local spill incident. The exercise brought everything together from what instructors covered during the workshop.
“Overall, a successful and mutually beneficial event,” said Andrews. It was agreed additional emphasis on planning would significantly enhance overall oil spill preparedness in Mozambique.

Owens said the key issues identified were the need to clearly define roles and responsibilities of the various stakeholders through the planning process, improved communication and co-ordination and increased stakeholder training on the response system and processes.

US Africa Command’s Environmental Security programme, in concert with other US government agencies and international partners, conducts environmental engagements to build capacity of partner African nations to promote a stable and secure African environment in support of US foreign policy.