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Experts To Discuss Offshore Oil Environmental Standards In West, Central, Southern Africa

By TheNigerianVoice-TNV

ABIDJAN 18 Sept – African Government oil and gas specialists are due in Abidjan, Côted'Ivoire, 23-24 September to identify and assess options for the form and content needed in setting environmental standards for offshore exploration and exploitation in the African Atlantic seaboard. This will be first meeting of its kind in Africa.

“We are laying down the foundations for the development of African environmental standards in view of the dramatic increase of offshore oil and gas activity in the region,” said Abou Bamba, regional coordinator of the Convention for Cooperation in the Protection, Management and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the Atlantic Coast of the West, Central and Southern Africa Region – also known as the Abidjan Convention.

The seminar of specialists from 15 West, Central and Southern African countries - among them the biggest oil and gas producers in the area -will review recent studies on offshore oil drilling activities in the subregion. They will be provided with an overview of national laws and policies regulating offshore drilling activities; and regional regulation, drawing from the experiences of the United Nations Environment agency's Regional Seas Programmes.

Holding of the seminar follows Decision-/CP.10/8 at the 2012 Conference of Parties to the Abidjan Convention in Pointe Noire, Congo Republic, which called for development of regional environmental standards for offshore oil activity. The decision, titled Environmental standards for the offshore exploration and exploitation activities of mining and mineral resources off the coasts of the States Parties, urges States in the Convention area to “implement initiatives” of organizations such as the International Maritime Organization, the United National Environment Programme, regional and subregional bodies, and the oil companies to develop regional environmental standards to apply when exploring or drilling for oil off the western Africa coast from Mauritania to South Africa.

Initial moves to guard oil spills appeared in 1981 with the creation of a Protocol of the Abidjan Convention concerning cooperation in combatting pollution in cases of emergency in Western and Central Africa. Subsequently, during the 9th Conference of Parties of the Abidjan Convention 28 March to 1 April 2010 in Accra, Ghana, the protocol was amended by a decision to create a Regional Centre for Cooperation in Case of Emergency.

Moreover, a Regional Contingency Plan was adopted for an effective response to oil spills affecting or likely to affect the region. Convention Contracting Parties then vowed to build their capacity to manage, develop and adopt appropriate national policies in oil and gas development. They also undertook to conduct strategic environmental and social impact assessments, and make laws to deal with liability, compensation, safety and security-related matters for offshore platforms.

West, Central and Southern Africa is one the world's most active offshore oilfields and, by far, the most active deepwater sector. Figures compiled from the United States Energy Information Administration show that Nigeria, Angola and Gabon head the ranking in terms of proven reserves; Nigeria, Angola and Equatorial Guinea lead in terms of daily production. However, almost all the marine waters off Africa's Atlantic coasts are currently divided into oil and gas exploration or exploitation blocks. The development of measures to bolster regional regulations of offshore oil and gas exploration and exploitation is high on the agenda of the Abidjan Convention Contracting Parties, now that a regional system is in place to do so and that reports have been highlighting the threats to the regional marine environment from offshore oil activity.

Participants at the seminar will be from the 22 coastal states on the Africa side of the Atlantic Ocean from Mauritania to South Africa and international experts on the subject matter.

The Convention for the Cooperation in the Protection, Management and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the Atlantic Coast of West and Central and Southern African Region (Abidjan Convention) is one of the African regional Seas conventions administered by the United Nations Environment Programme.

The Abidjan Convention and its protocol concerning cooperation in combating pollution in cases of emergency - came into force in 1984. The area covers the 22 coastal states on the Africa side of the Atlantic Ocean from Mauritania to South Africa.

Another protocol, the Cooperation in the Protection and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment from Land-Based Sources and the Activities (LBSA) in the Western, Central and Southern Africa Region,was adopted on 22 June 2012.It is a comprehensive umbrella agreement for the protection and management of the marine and coastal area, and aims to tackle -pollution from ships, dumping, land-based sources, exploration and exploitation of the seabed, and pollution from or through the atmosphere. It also makes provision for liability and compensation in case of pollution.

The Convention is the basis for cooperative efforts to deal with other issues such as overfishing, control of fish stocks, coastal-based tourism, coastal erosion, protected areas, and environmental impact assessment in the region.

For more details refer to www.abidjanconvention.org

For more information, please contact Abou Bamba, Regional Coordinator, Abidjan Convention/UNEP. Email: [email protected] Tel: +225 02 718 781 (Côte d'Ivoire).