The Honorable Kavydass Ramano, Minister of the Environment, Solid Waste Management and Climate Change said that the existing NOSCP had limits. Photo: Jean Yan Norbert @ UNDP Mauritius.

 

A Review of the Draft National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP) was held on Thursday 21st October, during a national validation workshop organised by the Ministry of Environment, Solid Waste Management and Climate Change at Balaclava. The NOSCP was endorsed in the presence of representatives of the Government, UN resident Coordinator’s  Office, United Nations Development Programme, Agence Française de Développement, and Civil Society.

Considering the lessons learnt from recent oil spills in the Indian Ocean, notably the MV Wakashio incident off the coast of Mauritius in July 2020, a review of the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan was initiated by the Government of the Republic of Mauritius. This initiative, aimed at ensuring better preparedness in the face of such incidents, was supported by the UNDP through the appointment of an international oil spill consultant, Dr. Matthew Sommerville, who played a central role in the review. The NOSCP, which was formulated in 1990 and first updated in 2003, was assessed and revised through a consultative process that engaged various stakeholders, including the Government, the private sector, civil society and international organisations.

From left to right: Amanda Serumaga, UNDP Resident Representative for Mauritius and Seychelles; H.E. Christine Umutoni, UN Resident Coordinator for Mauritius and Seychelles, and Dr. Matthew Sommerville, international oil spill consultant. Photo: Stéphane Bellerose @UNDP Mauritius

 

During the opening ceremony of the validation workshop, the Honorable Kavydass Ramano, Minister of Environment, Solid Waste Management and Climate Change, mentioned that “two-thirds of world’s oil shipment crosses the Indian Ocean waters and 30% of the world’s crude oil supply pass by our coasts”. Minister Ramano added that lessons learnt from the review of the existing NOSCP have shown that given increasing maritime traffic in the Indian ocean and risks of future incidents, additional measures were required to better manage oil spills above 10 metric tons. The Minister concluded by mentioning that a series of public consultations are being planned to publicly disseminate the findings of the report with the support of UNRCO and UNDP.

Her Excellency, Christine Umutoni, UN Resident Coordinator for Mauritius and Seychelles, reminded the audience of the key role played by the United Nations System to coordinate the response to the MV Wakashio oil spill crisis. She congratulated Mauritius for the updating of the National Contingency Plan and stressed the necessity to launch conversations to set a regional platform to better cope with such incidents in the Indian Ocean.

Ms. Amanda Serumaga, UNDP Resident Representative for Mauritius and Seychelles, stated that: “It can be said that the MV Wakashio demonstrated the capacity and strengths of a united Mauritian population who worked together to limit the damage to natural assets and assist those directly impacted by the disaster.”  Mentioning the participation of Dr. Sommerville in the review of the NOSCP, the UNDP Resident Representative added that “the UNDP Country Office is pleased to have contributed to this process which demonstrates a commitment to protect the people, natural and man-made assets from the adverse impacts of pollution through an efficient, well informed, inclusive and structured coordinated approach.”

Dr. Matthew Sommerville, the International oil spill consultant, said that the NOSCP was enhanced in view to enable quicker decision-making and more efficient actions in the advent of a hazardous spill. Photo : Stéphane Bellerose @ UNDP Mauritius

 

The National Validation workshop also included several working sessions led by Dr. Matthew Sommerville on the new features and elements of the NOSCP; the Mandate of Sections and Cells in the updated NOSCP; the proper use of dissolvents; the Port Louis Harbour Oil Spill Response Plan and the Rodrigues Oil Spill Contingency Plan. Stressing that “learning from the past can only allow to better prepare for incidents in the future”, the international expert added that contingency plans are designed to define how people need to be organized in the case of hazardous spills or other forms of pollution coming from the sea or from the land.

He added that the renewed National Oil Spill Contingency Plan takes into account not only the volume of pollutants but also their nature, and their potential to cause damage to the environment where the incident happened. Mentioning the importance of quickly evaluating the dangers of incidents such as oil spills, he stressed the importance to improve the assessment of existing competencies and the coordination of actions to ensure effective decision-making within such circumstances.

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