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December 5, 2017

PMSA’s joint exercise to combat marine oil spills kicks off


December 5, 2017

Barracuda-VIII, a marine oil spill exercise being conducted by the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) in coordination with various government and non-government organisations, kicked off in the city on Monday.

The three-phased four-day practical oil containment exercise aims at rehearsing oil spill contingency mechanism and procedures and would be conducted as per the directives of Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi.

The first phase of the exercise was held at the PMSA Headquarter on Monday. On the occasion, PSMA Deputy Director General (DDG) Commodore Abdul Wajid briefed the media about the objectives of the exercise and the capabilities PMSA’s various departments possess with regard to responding to an oil spill.

Followed by the briefing, planning and training sessions were held, the participants for the opening phase were given presentations, whereas speakers later answered questions raised by the participants.

The second phase of Barracuda-VIII, focusing on practical oil containment measures, would be held today at the Northern Arabian Sea near Karachi, whereas the third phase of the exercise will be conducted tomorrow at the Clifton Beach to rehearse oil spill response on land.

About the exercise

Marine pollution such as major oil spills is catastrophic for marine environment including for ports, harbours and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), thus requiring collective response by all stake holders.

After the catastrophic MV Tasman Spirit, a Greece registered oil tanker, oil spill incident that occurred near Karachi on July 28, 2003, a need was strongly felt to formulate a comprehensive anti-pollution plan.

Subsequently, the National Marine Disaster Contingency Plan (NMDCP) was prepared and promulgated by the Government of Pakistan in 2007 with Pakistan Navy and PMSA in lead roles. The NMDCP lays down comprehensive organisation and contingency plans to effectively deal with marine disasters at national level. The execution of the national contingency plan is ordered by the chairman of the Pakistan Marine Disaster Management Board (PMDMB) which is headed by Chief of the Naval Staff. On the other hand, a Response Committee is meant to coordinate with the Disaster Response Centre (DRC) at PMSA headquarters about efforts taken to deal with the catastrophe.

The participants

Besides units of the PN and PMSA, various government and civil organisations including the ministries of climate change, petroleum and natural resources, ports & shipping, home department, Karachi Port Trust, Port Qasim Authority, Gwadar Port Authority, National Institute of Oceanography, Provincial Disaster Management Authorities, Sindh Environmental Protection Agency, BEPA, Pakistan Meteorological Department, Bahria Foundation, China Power Hub Generation Company Ltd, Shell Pakistan Ltd, Pakistan Oil Refinery Ltd, National Oil Refinery Ltd, Oil Companies Advisory Committee, City Govt Karachi, M/s Byco, Pakistan National Shipping Corporation, Pakistan State Oil, Total Parco Marketing Limited, Karachi Nuclear Power Plant and Fauji Oil Terminal and Distribution Company are among the participants of the Exercise.

Speaking on the occasion, PMSA Director General (DG) Rear Admiral Jamil Akhtar said the Turkish Coast Guard would participate in the anti-oil spill exercise as an observer, whereas coast guards of Oman, Maldives, Iran and other countries would also be requested to observe the exercises PMSA would hold in the coming years.

Need for the exercise

The PMSA DG remarked that marine pollution within Pakistan’s waters has reached an alarming level. “Over 12,000 tons of solid waste and 500 million gallons of liquid waste is being released in the sea,” said the DG, adding that the area of pollution has increased from two miles to 50 miles over the past few years.

“Due to the addition in polluted sea surface, marine population in Pakistan’s sea territory has reduced by 40 per cent,” he maintained. Speaking of sewage treatment efforts in the port city, Rear Admiral Akhtar said there are zero efforts and that all kinds of waste is being released in the open sea.

“Everyone is talking about the increase in marine pollution but no one is taking any action to reduce it,” he said, adding that, “Increasing pollution is causing damage to ports and ships.” Citing the June, 2017 oil spill at Sea View, the PMSA chief said that the maritime agency had directed all relevant departments to stay alert which is why the oil spill was handled immediately. He also claimed that the PMSA had sent oil spill samples to the laboratory for testing which revealed that the oil was years old and that the spill was harmless to the marine population.

Indian fishermen

According to Rear Admiral Akhtar, Indian fishermen do not mistakenly enter Pakistan’s sea limits, and that if the PMSA allowed them to fish in its territorial waters then would make away with fish that earns Pakistan Rs20 billion annually. He questioned that if Indian fishermen enter in Pakistan’s sea limits by mistake, do they also mistakenly enter the sea limits of Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

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