The Coega Environmental Monitoring Committee (EMC) meets every month in order to report back on outstanding and upcoming issues within the Coega IDZ and the Port of Nqura.
At the 23 February meeting, Dr Paul Martin, the Coega/Ngqura Environmental Control Officer (ECO) highlighted a potential conflict with the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) that was originally issued for the Port of Nqura saying; “The ECO has previously raised concerns that the Port is being used for the repair of vessels and in the past quarter the Bulk Carrier Carmen Silva was present from 12 November until the end of November 2010 for engine repairs and the Tanker Go Patoro was moored at the Bulk Berth for at least a week from 5 December for engine repairs. No NCR has been raised as the vessels are ordered into Port by the SA Maritime Safety Association under what can be deemed to be emergency situations.”
The activities authorised in terms of the Records of Decision (RoDs) for the Port are: 4 container terminal berths; 2 dry bulk materials facility berths; 1 bulk liquid materials berth; Administrative Craft Basin for Pilot Boats and Tugboats.
Despite the potential for conflict with the existing EIA and RoDs, Transnet National Port Authority (TNPA) intends to allow an oil rig from Angola into the Port in April 2011 for 6 weeks in order to fit new cabins and lifeboats, etc. This is a potential breach of the RoD conditions for the port and needs to be discussed with the EMC and Authorities.
According to Dr Martin; “Apart from risks associated with ship building that were not assessed during the EIA process, the underwater superstructure of oil rigs often act as artificial reefs and the risk of the introduction of alien organisms is high unless this is cleaned of marine growth.”
According to people closely aligned to the port various local businesses have already been appointed to attend to the repairs and provide support services to the Oil Rig and the port whilst the repairs are undertaken.
The EMC has called for a non compliance record to be issued against the Port of Ngqura for vessel / oil rig / maritime repairs and construction in terms of the exicting RoD.
The forward planning of this operation definitely does not fall under the ‘guise’ of essential or emergency repairs and coupled with the increased dredging activities within the Port of Nqura appears to be one of careful forward planning in direct contravention of allowed procedures.
The Coega ECO also pointed out that the risks associated with the present dredging operations are high as:
- The RoD for the Port Extension requires measures to contain the impact of dumping of dredge material on the feeding patterns of birds and fish. To this end, the Final Scoping report recommended that a Trailer Hopper Suction Dredger be used to limit suspended solids in the surface waters and that October to January are the preferred months for dredging, when penguins are least tied to St Croix Island
- Contrary to the above, a Backhoe Dredger is being used for the operation and the operation is February to September (a Trailer Hopper Suction Dredger would have taken about 3 months)
- The dredger has 30,000 litres of hydraulic oil active in the system. Leaks from broken pipes and around connectors are likely during the operational period
- Transnet are well aware of the risks and Method Statements are being prepared for Excavation and Dredging; Transport and Disposal of Dredged Material; Water Quality Monitoring; Bunkering/Refueling; Waste Management and Emergency Response.
The China Harbour Engineering Company has deployed their dredger, Jintai to dredge the Port of Nqura.
Three disposal barges will transport approximately 1.3 million cubic metres of excavated material to the disposal site 10 kilometres south east of the dredging site. According to Transnet, disposal of the material will be done in such a way that no point on the seabed is increased by more than 3.5m above the original level.
Editors Notes – a bit like a huge giant deciding to make a number 2 on your home but only if it spreads and doesn’t stick up above a certain level.
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