CAIRO: A key challenge in protecting Egypt’s marine environment from oil spills is developing and sustaining a “credible oil spill response system. To meet this challenge, PESCo – in association with the industry, the Egyptian General Petroleum Cooperation (EGPC), the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA) and the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) – will conduct a real-time “major oil spill response exercise in the vicinity of Port Said on September 1 and 2.
“This exercise is important to create international and legal compliance and ensure emergency preparedness, captain Richard Byrnes, PESCo country manager and assistant CEO, told the Daily News Egypt.
The Ra-Atum VI exercise will entail a realistic response to a major oil pollution incident. EGPC, SCA and EEAA have each developed incident management systems to deal with any threat to Egypt’s vital coastlines. The September exercise will test these systems and enhance a unified command structure.
A steering committee was formed comprising of industry personnel from a variety of petroleum and maritime companies, including decision-makers from government agencies and port authorities.
Ra-Atum IV Oil Spill Response Exercise is the latest in the series of national oil spill response exercises organized by PESCo. The previous exercise Ra-Atum V, which took place in Sharm El-Sheikh in June, 2005 was a major success, highlighting Egypt’s efforts in environmental protection.
Through continued exercise programs, attendees will continue to strengthen their capabilities in responding to this kind of emergency.
The Egyptian Mediterranean coast around Port Said – entrance to the Suez Canal – is one of the busiest areas within the Mediterranean basin. According to National Geographic, “the Mediterranean Sea is practically tideless. Since its waters are renewed only about every 80 or 90 years, it is also susceptible to pollution. Whatever gets dumped in the Mediterranean stays there a long time.
The Mediterranean Sea is a well-frequented sea route allowing access to Southern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and the Black Sea. The result of this extensive marine traffic is a high risk of oil pollution, both intentional and accidental, in a tightly closed sea area.
The Egyptian Mediterranean congestion is due primarily to the Suez Canal being a major transportation route between the Middle East and Europe resulting in heavy oil-tanker traffic. Coupled with other Mediterranean countries’ tanker traffic, a large percentage of the world’s oil passes through the region.
Oil contamination of the shoreline is one of the perilous side effects of oil spills. When attractive coastal beaches and resorts such as those in South Sinai are affected, the costs are high because recreational activities for tourists are hindered.
One of the many positive benefits of this exercise is the “integration of all parties allowing the cascading of national resources, Byrnes said.
International organizations such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO), IPIECA, ITOPF, OCIMF, Rempec, Persga, MOIG and others are constantly updated on the Egyptian improvement to preparedness and response to oil pollution incidents.