The Petroleum Commission has expressed worry over the growing reports of incursions into safety zones around Ghana’s offshore oil fields.
New data published by the Commission showed that within the first quarter of 2021, safety zones around Ghana’s oilfields offshore recorded 1986 incursions.
The report, titled ‘Coexistence: Implications of incursions into safety zones’, explained that an incursion occurs when Safety Zones around offshore facilities and installations are breached by persons, especially fishermen.
The Commission revealed that all of the Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessels in Ghana’s offshore oil fields recorded incursions.
Outlining the implication of such acts, the Petroleum Commission warned that there could be explosions since some fishermen enter the safety zones with naked flames – such as burning charcoal and coal-pots onboard their canoes.
“Taking coal-pots and fire to FPSOs is dangerous. Ghana will lose if there is an accident as a result of a fire. These FPSO should be seen just like tankers carrying gas, because they are highly inflammable,” Chief Executive of the Petroleum Commission, Egbert Faibille Jnr., warned at a stakeholder meeting with all players in the marine industry.
He cautioned that accidental release of hydrocarbons could cause serious danger to oil fields if fishermen continue to enter the safety zones with their canoes – carrying flammable materials.
Mr. Faibille stressed that there are scientific reasons why the marine laws prohibit fishermen from entering into the 500-metre safety zone area to protect lives and properties.
He therefore appealed for education and dialogue to help fishermen obey the law.
“We strongly believe that the Upstream Petroleum Industry should be able to co-exist peacefully with the fisheries and other users of the marine space,” he said.
The stakeholder meeting brought together the Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Fisheries & Aquaculture Devt., Ghana National Petroleum Corporation, Fisheries Commission and the Environmental Protection Authority.
The rest were the Ghana Maritime Authority, the Marine Police, Upstream Petroleum Chamber, International Oil Companies, the International Finance Corporation and the National Canoe Fishermen’s Council.
Mr. Faibille recalled that adequate engagements have gone on in the past, leading to the establishment of an Impact Co-Management Platform, which will be guided by a roadmap for implementing the Safe Sea Access Framework.
The Safe Sea Access Framework, he explained, was born out of a study that forms part of the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee (MFAC)’s Action Plans to ensure strategic co-existence of the oil and gas and fisheries sectors.
“The MFAC was set up by the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development in July 2015, and is composed of stakeholders from government regulators, security agencies, civil society organisations and industry players in both sectors.”
Among others, the Commission is hopeful stakeholders will find a roadmap for implementing the Safe Sea Access Framework as well as design a roadmap for implementation of the Influx Management Plan.
In addition, the stakeholders were expected to come out with funding for implementation of the Safe Sea Access Framework and funding operation of the Cumulative Impact Management Secretariat.