U.S. Africa Command, Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa Team Up During Mauritius Oil Spill Workshop
U.S. Africa Command and the U.S. Embassy in Mauritius, supported by the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa conducted an East Africa Region Spill Preparedness and Response workshop June 1-3, 2009 in Balaclava, Mauritius.
More than 35 stakeholders from the islands of Mauritius and Seychelles participated in the workshop. The participants included representative from the Department of Risk and Disaster Management, Ministry of Environment, Mauritius ports authority, Mauritius police forces, fire service department, Mauritius public infrastructure and the Seychelles coast guard, as well as the oil and gas companies in Mauritius.
"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," said Art Kolodziejski, USAFRICOM Environmental Security Program manager.
According to John Owen, Naval Region Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia team technical lead, the frequency of oil spills is down, but the impact of an oil spill can dramatically affect the environment and local economy.
"With islands like Mauritius and Seychelles which rely on tourism to help support its economy, a major oil spill could devastate them economically," Owen said.
The workshop included several PowerPoint presentations from properties of oil and environmental sensitivity mapping, to response strategies and clean-up methods.
"This was a good refresher for me," said Patrick Randamy, Mauritius police force assistant commissioner. "Coming together for this workshop as leaders of the community shows our commitment to not only our island, but also the water around us, as well as to the world."
The group received a tour of the port of Mauritius and saw the emergency procedures that are in place in the event of an oil spill in the harbor or around the island. This included a demonstration of the various oil spill control and clean-up equipment available.
To conclude the workshop, the group participated in a tabletop exercise.
The case scenario for the exercise brought everything together from what the instructors covered during the workshop.
"Overall, a very successful and mutually beneficial event," said Kolodziejski. "During the workshop discussions it appeared the Mauritius level of spill preparedness and response awareness and capability is significantly higher than most African nations in the region."
It was however agreed that more systematic work needs to be done to effectively organize and utilize available resources.
Kolodziejski said some of the key issues identified were "less than optimal" location of spill containment and recovery equipment, need for clearly defined roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders, better communication and coordination in the region, and need for hands-on training with deployment of the available equipment.
U.S. Africa Command, Mauritius authorities, and Seychelles Coast Guard initiated regional Disaster Preparedness and Response cooperation, under the auspices of the Environmental Security Program and gained valuable planning information on spill response procedures and coordination requirements in case of a spill incident in the East Africa region.
U.S. Africa Command, in concert with other U.S. government agencies and international partners, conducts sustained security engagement through military to military programs, military-sponsored activities, and other military operations as directed to promote a stable and secure African environment in support of U.S. foreign policy.