West and Central African ports address the need for environmental management
Harry Barnes-Dabban, Corporate Estates & Environment Manager for Ghana Ports & Harbours Authority, highlights the need for WACAF to prioritise their environmental challenges or risk becoming a dumping ground
Given the growing concern over threats to global environmental quality and increasing pressures on world resources, ports are under pressure to deal with environmental issues - both those generated from maritime shipping and those generated in port areas.
Ports have to balance their commercial orientation and goals with ecological concerns by implementing multilateral environmental agreements, particularly International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) international conventions for the protection and prevention of marine pollution from ships.
Most of the IMO conventions were originally designed to regulate shipping activity. It has been realised, however, that ports are the only place to effectively regulate shipping related environmental impacts. The attention is therefore on ports to implement these conventions in addition to national and local environmental regulations.
Environmental policies: low priority
PMAWC West and Central African (WACAF) ports are obliged to implement and enforce IMO conventions in addition to the region’s two agreements; the Abidjan Convention and the Abuja MOU. Such polices have previously received low priority in the region. Though there is environmental awareness with an interest and concern, implementing the conventions remains a challenge. The formulation of policy to implement these conventions has traditionally been a state responsibility. Most nation-states, though members of the conference of parties (COP) for these conventions, have not harmonised them with their national laws.
The Abidjan Convention and its related protocol on pollution co-operation, is a comprehensive umbrella agreement for the protection and development of the region’s marine and coastal environment. It is also the only United Nations Environment Programme’s Seas Convention in the region. Its implementation has been slow, and although it was adopted in 1981 it has yet to be given any meaning. [Abidjan Convention] & COP 5 [Nairobi Convention] meeting, Nov. 2007, Johannesburg).
Little capacity to regulate shipping related impacts
Ports in the WACAF region are confronted with all the common environmental issues, some of which are trans-boundary but do not have adequate measures to deal with them efficiently. These range from ships waste, oil spills, air quality and ballast water, to habitat loss and degradation.
In dealing with these issues, WACAF ports rely on domestic and international environmental legislations, both of which are ineffectively enforced. Although some of the ports have clear environmental policy guidelines, they lack knowledge, technology, human and financial resources to develop environmental structures, and measures that are sustainable and consistent with international standards and practices. Most of the region’s port states have ratified relevant international marine environmental conventions, but lack capacity for carrying out the necessary legislative review to enable them to develop compliant domestic regulations to guide environmental performance. There is therefore a feeling of inertia with little capability to regulate shipping related impacts, particularly in;
- providing adequate port reception facilities for ship generated wastes as required by MARPOL 73/78
- providing facilities and guidelines for ballast water management as required by the Ballast Water Management Convention (BWMC 2004)
- Readiness and response in cases of major oil pollution as required by the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation (OPRC 1990), and the Abidjan Convention.
Where reception facilities are available, they are inadequate, with the exception two or three ports. It can therefore be safely assumed that illegal discharge of ship generated wastes is taking place somewhere in the region’s seas.
Under the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast water and Sediment (BWC 2004), ports are required to provide adequate reception facilities to receive ships ballast water and sediments in consistence with international law. This is to prevent, reduce or eliminate the transfer of harmful invasive aquatic organisms or pathogens through ballast water, one of the greatest threats to marine ecosystems. The emergence of new markets under globalisation has opened up the ports and shipping routes of the WACAF region . Several ports in the region export bulk commodities and oil and in return receiving large amounts of ballast water. This places the region at risk as they are potentially receiving harmful invasive organisms into their ecosystem but there is the lack of resources and capacity to implement the new BWC 2004 to address this threat. The threat from ballast water begins and ends in ports and therefore ports must ensure compliance by ships. Unfortunately, it can be hardly asserted that ports in the WACAF region are ensuring compliance despite our vulnerability.
Regarding oil pollution, IMO’s OPRC 1990 and the Abidjan Convention aim at facilitating cooperation and mutual assistance in preparing for and responding to oil pollution incidents. WACAF region has lots of oil and cannot ignore its dire need of cooperation to prepare and respond to spills and pollution incidents. Explorations and exports from countries like Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Senegal, Sao Tome and Principe, and the recent discovery by Ghana makes the region vulnerable to oil spill incidents from offshore installations and tanker traffic which may be remote from ports. Studies in WACAF ports show that there are real risks of small operational spills occurring and that there have been many recent incidents . Ports in the WACAF region together with other oil facility operators have been working on implementing these conventions but efforts have been slow and staggered due to ineffective co-ordinating structures.
Lack of finances to support environmental management
Most WACAF countries seem to have an impressive set of environmental regulations for port environmental protection, but their implementation indicates limitations. There is limited knowledge of the environment and most ports lack a clearly defined environmental management structure. Where they do exist, they are not placed among top management levels. For most ports environment is largely seen as part of the Harbour Master’s responsibility. The Harbour Master’s duty normally has to do with taking charge of pilotage, and overseeing floating crafts and operations on the waterside; duties very different to environmental protection and management. In other instances, the environment is seen as port area waste management to be handled under the administration department. Implementation of international conventions is weak. Environmental laws, directives and policies are poorly adapted to the situation on the ground. There is lack of integration and coordination. Where environmental standards exist, implementation and enforcement is poor. Capacity for environmental management is limited with few officers in charge lacking a background in environmental management. Environmental monitoring and protection is not a priority for most ports in the region. There is also generally limited financial means to support environmental management in the region’s ports.
Need for environmental cooperation
European ports under the European Seaports Association (ESPO) has set up an eco-information network called Ecoports, which, in association with an environmental organisation, Greenports, promotes collaborative environmental projects through exchange of information and best practice as well as sharing of solutions to common problems. This aimed at making the ports proactive and selfregulatory towards higher environmental standards. There is a framework within the Association of American Ports (AAPA) to similarly address environmental concerns. The same is emerging among Asia’s ports but nothing has yet happened for African ports.
WACAF ports are still preoccupied with modifying and renovating their infrastructure in a bid to enhance competition and attract more traffic. They operate inherently as fragmented individual entities under a concentration of power in their nation-states and remain inefficient in environmental performance. There is little option of linkages of environmental issues with neighbouring ports. To be able to meet expected global environmental demands, WACAF ports will have to find forms of environmental cooperation and steering to facilitate improved environmental performance like their European, American and Asian counterparts.
The global maritime community acknowledges that trans-boundary environmental issues can be prevented and managed through coordinated action from international through to regional and to local. In a key example, an environmental information exchange among ports could have prevented the dumping of toxic cargo from the Koko and Probo Koala incidences in Nigeria and Abidjan. An environmental cooperation among WACAF ports would, among other benefits share and reduce the cost of environmental solutions, harmonise and standardise environmental practices, attract environmentally responsible operators and investors, facilitate effective implementation of international regulations, promote the exchange of information, experience and best practice, and eliminate dumping and illegal shipments.
The Ports Management Association of West and Central Africa (PMAWCA) acknowledges that its member ports cannot spare any more time and effort to just stand and stare, and risk becoming dumping grounds whilst the world moves on. It believes environmental challenges facing member ports must be seen as opportunities to develop a clear vision and build synergies to improve environmental performance in order to meet international standards.
PMAWCA to partner an environmental NGO
PMAWCA has initiated discussions to partner an Environmental NGO with interest in African ports, Ports Environmental Network-Africa (PENAf) in association with Ecoports and Greenport (Europe) to assist member ports in building capacity and efficiency to improve environmental performance. The partnership would be aimed at catalysing the sharing of environmental knowledge not only between WACAF ports but within a broader international network of ports. To this end a port environmental platform for WACAF port environmental managers is to be launched to create a forum for sharing environmental experiences and cooperating on concrete collaborative environmental projects. The platform would look at port environmental issues and how to actively address them from practical and feasible perspectives. It would seek to increase knowledge about African port environmental issues and promote the integration of environment into the agenda of African ports, as in other regions globally, towards achieving an overall sustainable environment. The kick-off meeting for this environmental platform which is geared towards the institution of a yearly Greenport Africa Conference is an opportunity for African ports to support themselves and work together, involving everyone in consultation, dialogue and cooperation to generate new knowledge and initiatives to make our ports sustainable.
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