With the aim of further strengthening regional response to pollution incidents at sea, a three-day tabletop exercise is being organised in Seychelles for the western Indian Ocean, putting to test an existing regional contingency plan.
Dubbed the ‘Western Indian Ocean Pollution Regional Exercise (WIOPOLREX)’, the exercise is being organised jointly by the Regional Coordination Operations Centre (RCOC) and the Regional Maritime Information Fusion Centre (RMIFC) from July 25 to July 27.
Through the exercise, the two regional centres will be able to assess preparedness to respond to oil pollution incidents in the region, similar to the incident on July 25, 2020, where MV WAKASHIO spilled approximately 1,000 metric tonnes of oil at sea, off the southeastern coast of Mauritius.
The principal secretary for the environment, Denis Matatiken, stated that oil spills have boundaries and “no matter its scale, an oil spill can wreak havoc on our ecosystems, causing devastating impacts on the environment and disrupting the delicate balance of marine life.”
Talking to the press, the director of the Seychelles-based RCOC, Sam Gonthier, outlined that the current contingency plan “is an old one, a draft that has not been tested.”
“We will be testing our contingency plan and we have asked all countries including Seychelles, to take the plan that they must test it. All these countries have their plan but they have not tested them,” said Gonthier.
Regional countries – Comoros, Djibouti, France (Reunion, Mayotte) Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, and Seychelles – and partners will link together for the tabletop exercise. These countries, with the help of international partners, will work through simulated pollution events in the respective territories.
“Each country will be tested on how it will react to the event. There will also be an incident that will be too large for a country to deal with alone and as such will have to contact RCOC to coordinate a regional operation to help with the catastrophe,” said Gonthier.
The outcomes of the exercise will contribute to the implementation of the regional oil spill contingency plan, strengthen the regional coordination capacity of the RCOC, and update the RCOC’s standard operating procedures to deal with a large-scale pollution situation in its area of operation.
It will also contribute to the implementation of national control plans of the member states of the MASE agreements.