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West African region is the leading oil producer in the entire African continent comprising countries like Nigeria being major producers of oil in this area. Typically, the main source of oil in Nigeria is the Niger Delta with about 606 petroleum fields; 246 being offshore while the remaining 360 are onshore. This makes the country rank sixth among all the oil producing nations globally while it takes the lead in Africa. Over 2,700,000 drums of oil are produced in West Africa per day. As such, the West African economy is majorly reliant on the oil sector which provides averagely 20% of their GDP while being a major source of imported income at 95% as well as funding the national budgets of each of the countries by around 65%. However, these nations experience devastating ecological problems as a result of exploration and utilization of oil.


From 1976 to 96 a cumulative of more than 4647 incidents related to oiling activities caused a spillage in the environment of more than 2,369,470 drums of oil. From ’97 to 2001, over 3000 petroleum spill occurrences were brought to book. For instance, forty thousand drums of Mobil platform oil was spilt along the coastal area which caused serious ecological damage of the area.


A number of energieswere directed towards deterrence of pollution as a result of oiling activities in the region. Prevention policies have been put in place as well as implemented through Non-governmental establishments, Federal administrations and various oil companies across the West African region. Oil trajectory and fate representations are part of the policies that have been incorporated to control environmental pollution caused as a result of oil spill. For instance, the oil spill trajectory model adopted in Nigeria shows that wet season oil spill reached the shores of Pennington River after 4.5 days and it reached the shores of Benin River within 6.5 days.




I would like to acknowledge with great gratitude all the distinguished personalities for their diverse assistance during my academic times in this campus. Special regards to the professors in addition to the staff belonging to the College of Engineering and Ecological Safeguard.


I would also like to say thanks to all my colleague students with whom we belonged to the College of Engineering for the teamwork and support that we had for one another during our studies and field works.


Finally, I extend my gratitude to the university librarian and staff for providing a conducive research and study environment during my research work and stay at the university. Books were readily available with easy access.



The West African maritime zone constitutes that which the United Nations Convention on Law of Sea of 1982 defines as Territorial Sea, Economic Exclusive Zone and Contiguous Zone.


The West African coastline is characterized by various natural features and conducive climatic conditions suitable for feasible living conditions. The West African coast line was found to be the economic backbone of the various West African oil producing nations.The shipping activities at the ports and oil exploration and exploitation along the coastline pose a threat to a sustainable healthy environment and well being of persons and sea creatures in the areas. For better understanding and comprehension of oil spill pollution for development of sustainable combative approaches to the negative implications of oil spill pollution, SWOT analysis must be employed in examining the measures undertaken by the current oil regulatory boards of the various West African Countries with regards to oil pollution (Curtis, 1984).


Most of the governments of the West African oil producing countries operate under the rule of separation of power basically categorizing the governments into three main arms which are the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary. Studies show that the various State Ministries like Ministry of Transport are held answerable and accountable by the Presidents of the various nations, for instance, this is what happens in Nigeria, Benin and Ghana.Various studies show that the West African countries suffer similar negative effects from oil pollution. This dissertation therefore narrowed down to Nigeria as a perfect case study being the region’s largest oil producer. It was found that Nigerian government has a maritime senate committee which scrutinizes and analyzes maritime proposals tabled before it by the government or any other organization with maritime interest.



Figure 1.1 Nigeria and other West African Countries

(Source: Shell Nigeria, 1999)

Nigeria therefore established the National Maritime Authority (NMA) with the mission of focusing on various economic policies in shipping and ensuring maritime safety while the Ministry of Environment was established with the core purpose of dealing with environmental activities related to marine environment. The research discovered that most of the West African oil producing countries, Nigeria being part of them, is members of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a special agency of the United Nations dealing with ensuring safety in shipping operations and the entire marine environment. As such, Nigeria through ratification observes treaties of Response and Cooperation Convention and Oil Pollution Preparedness though not yet integrated in the country’s supreme law. Additionally, the country also ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the sea (UNCLOS) of 1982.


With the current structure of governance in Nigeria, the Ministry of Transport oversights the management of all the country’s ports through the Nigerian Port Authority. This helps in easy channeling of the revenue collected from ports into the federation account while some of it is used in the daily running and sundry expenses of the authority. A study conducted by the World Bank showed that the West African countries especially Nigeria did much of their international trade through the sea using cargo ships. Oil is the main export product from West Africa.  The Niger Delta has six large loading terminuses where crude oil tankers are loaded with oil for transport to various destinations. Nigeria has a large offshore and onshore oil reserve that can go up to fifty years before getting depleted. Nigeria exports at least two million barrels of crude oil to different parts of the world every day, placing her at the sixth position among the world’s largest oil producers.The Nigerian oil industry is run by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources. Oil surveyas well asutilization in Nigeria is done on a contractual basis between the authorities and multinational oil companies. There are around five such companies in Nigeria (Barcena, 1993).


Recently, a rise in marine armed robbery and piracy has been recorded in the West African territorial waters. Though not a new phenomenon, it has caused a lot of danger to the marine environment and the West African people at large. A joint security team comprising the navy, the customs and the police have been able to counter the incidents and return operations to normalcy.Another hazard to the marine life in the West African countries is the emergence of alien marine species caused by tankers which call for cargo loading at the oil terminuses. Most of such tankers come to Nigeria on ballast voyages upon which the ballast water has to be discharged before loading the tankers with cargo. The discharged water creates a strange condition where some undesirably strange species emerge.


The control of ports initiative by the IMO pioneered the signing of several interstate memoranda of understanding (MOU). The MOUs have helped in mounting the deserved pressure on substandard ships thereby driving away such ships to areas with no such MOUs particularly to Central Africa and some West African states. The substandard ships are a potential risk and are hazardous to the marine environment thereby placing the region at a risk of oil pollution by such ships.


With the abundant resources at the West African maritime zone, especially the Niger Delta region, several opportunities and sustainable development projects can be undertaken; some of which are already in place. These include but not limited to:

  • Establishment of a loading and processing of petroleum and gas Centre at the offshores.
  • Establishment of Marine Parks in the reef conservation zone along the coastline. This will aid in preserving the natural character traits of reef areas thereby offering a natural laboratory for scientific research works as well as increasing tourism in the coastline.
  • Enhancement and advancement of artisanal fisheries and establishment of national fisheries. This will aid in increasing fish production and its by-products for domestic consumption and commercial purposes like exports. It will be advantageous by increasing protein consumption and employment opportunities since new fishing ports with appropriate modern equipment will be established.
  • Expansion and modernization of maritime transport with improved navigational safety. The increased import and export via sea necessitates the need for improvement and upgrading of port facilities.

With the aforementioned maritime environment and ecological issues, the maritime authorities should therefore devise appropriate aims, goals, mission and vision statements for effective running and oversight of marine activities so as to protect the marine life. The mission statement will help in achieving the authority’s laid down objectives within a given time limit while the vision statement will help in achieving the future or rather long-term goals of the authority in maintaining a healthy marine environment (Hugdson, 1999).




The coastline areas of the oil producing countries in West Africa are very crucial areas. These are areas in which several economic activities take place, like for instance, in the Niger Delta, activities like crude oil exploration and exploitation, fishing, port operations, and shipping take place. These are activities with negative implications on the environment, especially the oil exploration and exploitation activities. This calls for proper regulatory measures to control and minimize pollution in the marine environment.


The IMO plays a lead role in addressing the problem of oil pollution in the marine environment through its OPRC and MARPOL prescriptions. The Maritime Administration personnel, on behalf of the government ensure the authority’s regulations are followed to the latter. The authority gives relevant training on matters pertaining to marine environment and how to control oil spillage and reduce marine pollution. This therefore qualifies the topic to be relevant to the intended field of study (IMO, 1997).




This work was majorly done from secondary sources of information. Relevant consultations were made regarding government maritime authorities. Valuable information from the West African sea ports, Nigerian specifically, and oil exploiting companies along the Niger Delta were also acquired during the research. Such informationwas acquired through the internet and online media reports. Studies from the Maritime Administration publications were as well in generating relevant ideas of this research paper. Other organizations which provided consultancy services during this research included the Nigerian Institute of Oceanography which offered relevant information on the marine aspects, and the Maritime Academy of Nigeria dealing with the development of manpower. Precisely, below is a summary of the materials used during the research:

  • Publications of the federal environmental protection agency
  • Nigerian Environmental Laws
  • Nigerian Shipping Laws by Mbanefo
  • IMO, manual on oil pollution, London
  • ITOPF, Technical information papers no. 1-15

Periodicals included:

  • Marine pollution policy
  • Marine Policy
  • Third World Quarterly

Other sources included:

  • Papers form the oil industry
  • Government reports and publications
  • Papers from oil pollution conferences and seminars

Above methodologies therefore provided sufficient and elaborative information on the topic subject matter of analyzing the measures undertaken to prevent marine pollution in the West African region and prevent further or future oil spills. The items research gave insight to several past incidences of oil pollution that had been witnessed in the West African waters and their causes like piracy, faulty tankers and tank cleaning among others.The research methods also provide an intuition on the various international conventions put in place to manage oil spillage and prevention of marine pollution across the world waters and how the world oil producing nations can collaborate to achieve common objectives of fighting piracy, marine protection, standardized ship operations and many others.



This dissertation therefore aims to analyze while offering solutions to oil pollution menace in West African countries. It also analyzes the role played by Maritime Administration in Nigeria since it was established in the late 80s. Other pertinent issues listed below are also herein discussed:

  • Identification of the nature and extent of environmental threat caused by oil exploration activities in the West African countries.
  • Examining the environmental situation along the coastline and the climatic conditions akin to oil exploitation.
  • Examination of the efficacy of the laid down organizational and regulatory regime prohibiting oil pollutionin the marine environment; a case study of the Niger Delta.
  • Chapter five articulates the criteria for implementation of appropriate and efficient contingency plans for countering oil spillages in accordance with the OPRC convention, including a sensitivity map for environmentally sensitive areas.
  • The need for examining alike set-ups for successful maritime administrations in response to oil spills. This shall be useful for drawing relevant techniques providing comprehensive solutions to marine oil pollution in the West African oil producing countries.
  • Examining proper training and development of necessary requisites for ensuring the availability relevant skills for management of oil spills.

Finally, the paper will provide recommendations on tactical planning, course and the target objective. This will aid in quick and well-equipped emergency response to oil spills in order to curb the detrimental effects that may arise from it. The spillage would be able to be contained before spreading to a larger surface area either in water mass or land mass or both. Besides, the recommendations will make the people tactically prepared to respond to such incidents in terms of quick evacuation, property salvage and fire control in case of explosion. The communities living along the coastline will as such have to equip themselves with fire extinguishers and quick dhows for crossing the delta from one end to the other in case of explosive oil spills. Moreover, the oil pipeline area will be marked danger zones for which no community should reside or carry any kind of activity liking farming around the pipeline zones.





This research was based on the analysis of the measures to be undertaken to prevent oil pollution in the West African countries. In order to carry out a detailed study and research on the topic, the paper narrowed down to the largest oil producer in West Africa which is Nigeria while giving emphasis to the Niger Delta. Niger Delta is the area adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean in the Nigerian coastline. It is where River Niger and the Atlantic Ocean form a confluence. An aerial view shows the delta to appear triangular in shape. The delta borders around twenty small barrier islands approximately measuring 200km2.The barrier channels separate the islands from ocean tides and water and the 1,500,000 hectares swampy mangrove forest which is the third largest in the universe.

The Niger Delta region lies within the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator. It therefore experiences sunshine the whole year with averagely thirty degrees temperature and around 3800mm of rainfall annually. The Niger delta was formed as a result of the bifurcation of River Niger and the tributaries, and the material deposits of items dropped by the river. This condition has created a favorable climate for vegetation growth along the coastline of Nigeria consequently leading to the wide array of trees along the coastline as well as the flora and fauna. The climate around the area creates three different marine zones along the coast namely the seawater zone, fresh water swamp zone and the permanent-fresh water swamp. The three zones are a hub of various ecological species of forest trees, birds, benthos and a variety of fish. Besides, the area contains large quantities of non-living marine elements like onshore and offshore hydrocarbons. The Niger delta constitutes close to a quarter of the entire nine kilometer coastline of Nigeria. The major towns around Niger delta include Port Harcourt, Burutu, Degema, Sapele, Okrika, Warri and Boni, with a total human populace of approximately seven million persons with 3% annual growth rate (Shell, 1999).




One of Nigeria’s infrastructural plans has beendeveloping offshore deposits of gas and establishment of a loading and processing station for petroleum and other gas products. Oil excursion and exploration along the Niger Delta began around 50 years ago in the onshore areas of the delta but has ever since gradually moved to the offshore areas. Crude oil is extracted in four main steps as follows; conducting geophysical surveys of the oil deposits, drilling of the deposits, establishing and constructing of production amenities and finally the field closure. All these processes were properly undertaken around the Niger delta area for oil exploration and exploitation. A total of 4000 oil wells have been bored around the Niger Delta since 1937 (Guardian Nigeria, 1999).

The oil drills have with them the requisite infrastructure such as oil-flow stations, platforms, oil tank farms and loading terminuses linked via well laid down pipelines approximately 6000km long.The main by-product from crude oil is gas. Every oil barrel produces an estimated 1000ft3 of gas (Shell, 1999). The gaseous produce is however on the rise to approximately 95% of the crude oil. The Niger delta currently has a total of 250oil sites and another 200 undisclosed gas and oil reserves.



With the Niger delta being the largest oil producer in West Africa, the Nigerian maritime transport national development plan established five of all the nine seaports in Nigeria along the Niger Delta. These are the Port Harcourt port, Sapele, Koko, Onne, and Warri.There are other onshore and offshore oil loading terminuses numbering eight. Port Harcourt along the Niger Delta is the third largest with a draft of 7.6m. The port has thirteen berths, anchorage and tanker buoys (NPA, 1996). The port handles general cargos, refined and crude petroleum products, coal, vegetable oil and explosives.         The port of Warri has a 7m draft with eight berths with the necessary facilities for shipment and oil loading. The major items of shipment through the port include, iron and steel, general cargos, and RORO. The port of Koko also has a similar seven meters draft along River Benin, one of the River Niger tributaries. The primary shipment products are oil and other cargo goods. Sapele port was specifically built for timber export and shipment along with other forest products. Precisely, the port handles both solid and liquid cargos in bulk.

The loading terminuses handle a variety of ten grades of crude and condensed oil for export business. There are onshore and offshore terminuses, i.e. floating terminuses. Ultra large crude carriers and general carriers are used for lifting oil products. 5% of the exported crude oil is shipped using long range tankers basically known as LR1 tankers weighing at least 45,000 tons and at most 80,000 tons in dead weight. Shipping of averagely 80% of the crude oil is done via long range ships weighing at least 80,000 tons and at most 160, 000 tons in dead weight. The remaining 15% of crude oilis shipped using Ultra Crude Carriers (ULCC) with dead weight of at least 320,000 tons or more. Ordinarily, four VLCCs sail through the Niger Delta every week besides the numerous general cargo ships, naval ships and the oil production support vessels. The table below is a representation of the crude oil terminuses, location and the grade of crude oil hauled up from every terminus (Ekweozor, 1987).

Table 2.1 Oil Loading Terminuses, Capacity and Location

Antan   Antan Blend NA Onshore
Bonny   Bonny Light and Medium NA Onshore
Brass NPA/Agip Brass Blend 0.2 Mil Barrels Onshore
Escravos NPA/Chevron Escravos Blend 2.8 Mil Barrels Onshore
Forcados NPA/Texaco Forcados Blend 3.3 Mil Barrels Onshore
Odudu   Odudu Blend NA Offshore
Oloibiri   Pennington Light NA Offshore
Qua Iboe NPA/Mobil Qua/Iboe Light 0.5 Mil Barrels Onshore

(Source: NNPC, Nigeria)


The oil exploration and exploitation activities along the Niger delta have ultimately resulted in detrimental environmental pollution in the delta region. The four main stages of exploring gas and oil have some negative impacts in the environment. The first stage which involves conducting of geophysical surveys for identification of potential oil sites entails a series of seismic activities. These activities generate a lot of subversive sound wavesthrough the use of explosives in the prospective oil sites. The land clearing process in the prospective oil fields leads to vegetation loss and soil erosion in such areas. The drilling process which is the second stage is majorly carried out to ascertain the potentiality of the identified fields and their oil production capacity. A pad of at least five thousand square meters and at most twenty thousand square meters is therefore normally constructed for the drilling purposes. This leads to production of clay mud and rock pebbles which are disposed into the environment. Other by-products are production of spoilt dredges and increase in water surface turbidity along River Niger and its several tributaries (Ifedi, September 1999).

Dredging is basically done with the purpose of increasing and widening the rivers to permit in and out passage of materials from the drilling site. Dredging will therefore require land acquisition for construction of feeder roads as well as dredging of canals thereby leading to increased turbidity of Niger tributaries, vegetation loss plus accidental oil spillages.  The third stage of oil extraction involves construction of manufacturing avenues where gas, water and oil substances are produced for pipeline transportation to the coastline terminuses. A total of four thousand sites have been drilled so far along the Niger delta. Although the drilling activities cause environmental harm and pollution, the oil companies make significant attempts of treating the waste oily water at the Forcados and Ughelli water treatment plants. This helps in eliminating the heavy metals, salts and oil in the water before disposal.

Earlier before the founding of the Federal Environment Protection Agency, the present day Federal Ministry of Environment, towards the end of 1980s, there were no national legislation requirements on Environmental Impact Assessment done before undertaking new projects. This implies that all the oil drilling and drainage facilities that were established before 1980 never did a proper research on environmental impacts of their activities since the EIA had not come to play. However, EIA is today a compulsory initiative that must be undertaken by all new projects. For the earlier established projects, it is a legal requirement that they avail Environmental Evaluation Report (EER) for scrutiny by the authorities.

From the oil exploitation activities, oil pollution through oil spillages constitutes a greater percentage of the entire environmental threat form the oil industry along River Niger. The figure below shows an inferno in the Niger delta region that was caused by oil spill from Shell Oil Company in December 2005;

Figure 2.1 Niger delta populaces passing an inferno by Shell Oil Pipeline while                     evacuating their homes


(Source: Shell, December 2005)


In 2009, Royal Dutch Shell Company spilt close to fourteen thousand tons of crude oil into the Niger Delta. The company blamed it on the militants and the marine thieves for the environmental pollution. In the same year, the amount of oil spill in the delta by Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary doubled the quantity spilt in 2008 while quadrupling the amount spilt in 2007. This is the height of environmental pollution caused by oil companies in Nigeria and West Africa at large. The Chief Executive Officer of Shell Company hinted that the company no longer relies on Nigeria as their major source of profit despite having operated in Nigeria for more than 50 years since the company experiences frequent attacks by militants targeting the pipelines , kidnapping the company employees as well as fighting the government forces. Most of the Shell Company oil loss and spillages were majorly caused by two incidents; one where thieves destroyed the company’s wellhead at Odidi oil field and the other where its Trans Escravos pipeline was bombed by militants. The two incidents led to a 13,900 tons oil spill into the Niger Delta and the swamps. The company managed to recover 10,000 tons while the remaining 3,900 tons ended up causing massive oil pollution in the marine environment (Shell, 2015).

In Shell’s annual report, the company quadrupled the oil spill estimate to 8,800 tons in 2008 compared to the normal oil spills in which the company blamed the November explosion at Iriama field for the increased oil spills.

“The government is aware of the spills and Shell has properly taken care of the damage and remains involved in serious clean-up exercises,” said Levi Ajonuma, the National Nigerian Petroleum Corp spokesman.

“Nigeria, especially the Niger delta, remains a very challenging place to operate,”said the Shell CEO, Peter Voser. “Security issues and sabotages are constant threats to our people, assets and environment. But we are cautiously optimistic that the conditions are improving,” added the CEO.

Back in 1984, a barge capsized in the Bonny estuary upon which two hundred barrels of crude oil were spilt in the estuary (Snowden and Ekweozor, 1987). This was barely after 5 blowouts were reported at Funiwa in 1980. Another oil spill was the River Orhionmwon oil spill in 1999 September which also caused massive pollution in the marine environment. Also reported has been the continuous waste oil dumping and dumping of other by-products from Warri petrochemical oil refinery in Ubeji River which has caused tremendous damage to marine life and people living along the coastline (Vanguard Nigeria, October 1999).

Actions taken against this oil pollution by the relevant authorities is still unexplainable since there have been no official records of the regulatory impacts on oil pollution control thereby rendering the arrangements ineffective as far as oil pollution control is concerned. Line breaks caused a total loss of 11,000 drums of crude oil along the warri-Escravos oil pipeline at the Benneth Island. Additional 2,400,000 drums of crude oil were pumped through the same pipeline but only 2, 300,000 drums of oil were finally received. 100, 000 barrels of oil is deemed to have found its way to the environment through leakages in the pipeline.Similarly, 3, 500,000 barrels of oil was pumped to Port Harcourt and Warri Port from Chevron operated Escravos but the barrels received were 110 barrels. The loss occurred in the course of delivery most probably through leakages. This was in September 1999. For the last one and a half decade, an estimated figure of 2,105,398 barrels of crude oil has been spilt along the Niger Delta by different oil companies with Shell Company claiming a larger proportion of the total oil spillages (Ogbonna, 1999).

Sludge and waste discharges from shipping activities and port activities has been another source of environment pollutants along the coastline with the closure of oil fields as a major marine activity being another source of environmental oil pollution.  The danger inherent to oil spill is mass environmental pollution which has seen people witness serious fire in the neighborhoods along the oil pipelines in the West African region and Niger Delta. This results to alteration of the quality of water in the River Niger and pebbles of toxic substances from the oil spills, though the detriment varies with amounts of spilled oil. Studies show that the April 1984 oil spill led to reduction in the number of fiddler crabs and polychaete density in the River Niger. Oiling of prop-roots at the sites of spill also became higher exterior of the mangrove zone at 29.6% than at the inner edge at 20.7% (Ekweozor, 1987).

The strategic positioning of the West African coastline makes the surrounding area quitesusceptible to oil pollution.Possible accidental dischargesfrom the several tankers operating along the coastline pose serious dangers to the neighboring countries from the West African region like Angola and Cameroon.


The Federal Environmental Ministry is the major governmental organ in Nigeria entrusted with matters of pollution through its marine pollution department. It is tasked with the duties of policy formulation, contingency planning, and mapping and prompt response to maritime pollution, and coordinating clean-up activities of oil spills in the sea waters.The Transport Ministry does this through the established maritime parastatals to draft measures on logistics, planning and policy making. It is a general requirement that the polluters undertake clean-up processes of the spilt oil and compensate for any damage caused. Below is a tabular breakdown of oil pollution control and clean-up processes;


Table 2.2: Analysis of Oil Pollution Control and Clean-up Program; Niger Delta

  Policy Establishment Regulatory Legislation Service Provision
Environmental Management ·         Federal Ministry of Environment

·         National Institute of Oceanography

·         National Maritime Authority

·        Nigerian Port Authority

Federal Ministry of Environment Polluters

(Source: Hogdson, WMU)



Precisely, the National Maritime Authority is the central administration charged with the duty of implementing government regulations pertaining to sea activities like shipping and environmental protection of the marine habitat. The authority has a well-established policy structure for performing its duties as listed below:

  • Ensuring that the national oil carriers of Nigeria completely comply with the nation’s carrying rights which recommend at least 40% revenue from the freight and total trade volume within and outside Nigerian borders.
  • Ensure all ships operating within Nigeria’s sea waters are registered.
  • Monitoring of the undertakings of the vessels belonging to companies branded as national carriers.
  • Regulation of conferences held by liners and national carriers.
  • Doing a thorough scrutiny of the seafarers.
  • To inspect and survey the various water vessels.

Besides, the Nigerian Institute of Oceanography (NIO) is a governmental institution which does various research works on the Nigerian seawaters and develops constructive data for prospective exploration of the sea area. The agricultural ministry is entrusted with the oversight role on fishing activities thus doubles up as the Fisheries Authority although the examination and surveillance of fishing vessels is done by the Department of Maritime Safety of the National Maritime Authority. The Federal environmental ministry is entrusted with the duty of controlling pollution in the environment; a newly established ministry though.Initially, the environmental matters of the marine habitat were managed by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Precisely, sea is a major source of livelihood as it goes that the oceans produce a good percentage of oxygen gas thus rendering the sea an important resource in human life with the increasing human populace. However, just a mere 10% of the sea is what is productive. The remaining 90% is just but water mass to aid in shipping and other non-ecological activities. This is due to the fact that plant and animal life only do well at places of the right temperatures with adequate photosynthetic light and food. Such areas are majorly found on the continental shelves though they are most susceptible areas of the seas and oceans (DEPA, 1999). The reason as to why these areas are vulnerable to pollution is because all pollution will in the long-run find their way to the water masses consequently killing birds and shellfish, leading to pollution at the beaches as well as destroying other marine organisms. As such, there are some statutory rules observed in the drive of regulating oil pollution in West Africa’s largest oil producing country, Nigeria. These include:

  • Decree 42 of 1988 on Toxic Wastes
  • DPR Petroleum Drilling Act of 1969
  • DPR guiding principles on waste and oil discharge discarding of 1992
  • Oil in Navigable Water Act of the1968 Convention on Oil Pollution
  • Safety Regulation on Mineral oil, 1963.

The 1998 Decree 42 on toxic wastes stipulates that all the disposable toxic wastes must be treated before being discharged into the environment. Poisonous gases should not be delivered into the environment as they contribute to global warming. The wasteful by-products of oil companies must be put into other uses or if that isn’t possible, then they must be properly treated to ensure they are harmless before being disposed into the environment. The DPR Petroleum Drilling Act of 1969 demands that the oil companies must take into account all the environmental adversities pertinent to the drilling of oil. The boreholes left on the ground must be well-secured to prevent injuries from human’s adventurous nature. This was particularly drafted for onshore drilling of oil. Oil in Navigable Water Act was also established in 1968 for control of offshore extraction of oil. It stipulates that offshore oil extractors have to ensure marine safety while carrying out their extraction activities so as not to interfere with or cause any harm to marine life in any way.  The Safety Regulation on Mineral Oil of 1963 was generally passed to govern the general activities related to the extraction of mineral oil both onshore and offshore; the core agenda being ensuring environmental protection and human safety while undertaking the oil extraction activities. The oil extractors were tasked with the duty of ensuring environmental protection from oil pollution and being liable for any damages in case of pollution resulting from their extraction activities.




In developing a marine habitat emergency contingency plan, some conventions have to be followed. Since oil spills are very detrimental to the marine environment as they spread around the water mass upon spilling, it becomes very hard to clear up the whole amount of the spilt oil. It is therefore ideological to emphasize on preventive measures as opposed to response measures on pollution since the latter comes with an enormously unbearable cost. The cost of treating oil pollution and compensating for damages after the spill occurs is averagely thrice that of undertaking the preventive measures. Shipping activity is an outstanding hazard to the marine environment and the people living along the coastline in the West African region. The possibility of oil spill occurrences along the coastline of the West African countries is a fact that cannot be ruled out at whatever cost. A timely and cost effective contingency plan will therefore be necessary for curbing oil pollution in the West African oil producing states.The contingency scheme will help in formulation and identification of highly risk areas to be given much priority to prevent further hazards caused by the accident prone areas of the sea (Rossouw, 1998).

The maritime industry is structured in such a manner to basically regulate the transportation activities across the Nigerian water masses to control, regulate and prevent environmental oil pollution by seizing dangerous cargo to the marine environment and the people living around the environment. The industry has a well laid statutory response plan in readiness of any kind of environmental pollution from oil.Various undertakings have been put in place by the West African governments towards mitigation of oil pollution and its negative effects to the marine environment and its surrounding neighborhoods.

Figure 3.1: A man walking past spilt Shell crude oil along the shores of Niger                                    Delta


(Source: Shell, 2015)

As such, below are some of the measures that have been undertaken towards this course.


This Act has seen Nigeria improve drastically in its pollution control efforts and response. It provides a framework to be followed by the various oil companies and government in prevention, minimization, clean-up and accountability upon occurrence of oil spills in the sea waters and the neighboring areas of the Nigerian coastline. The OPA, 1990 guidelines basically focused on how to lower the number of spillages as well as the quantity of oil spilt upon occurrence of such spillages. The statutory regulation also ensured sufficient funding towards oil clean-up processes upon spillage as well as sufficient compensation to the aggrieved parties by the oil spillage incidents. It also provided for adequate preparation by the federal marine response teams in management of oil spillages and its consequent outcomes as well as obligating the oil companies to implement pollution prevention and emergency measures. Moreover, oil tankers and other inland oil facilities are mandated by the OPA provisions to devise individual response techniques towards oil spills so as to minimize its detrimental effects. Finally, the OPA addresses the need for bettering the national response system as well as developing Area Contingency Plans in different oil sites (IMO, 2000).

In order to lower the frequency of oil incidents around the Nigerian Coast resulting from vandalism, the Nigerian Federal Government passed through her National Assembly, established the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in 2000 to carry out various functions as mentioned below:

  • To ensure easy survey at the Niger Delta for ascertainment of the necessary measures for promoting the delta’s physical and socio-economic infrastructure.
  • Avail feasible development schemes and outlines for upgrading the Niger Delta region
  • To establish the barriers hindering the development of the delta area and formulate implementable policies for the member states for ensuring effective and sufficient utilization of the resources at the Niger Delta.
  • Assess the oil exploration activities undertaken along the delta by oil companies like Shell Company, state-run companies and non-governmental organizations and avail funding for their development activities as well as making follow ups to ensure proper utilization of such funds.
  • Mitigate the environmental and ecological hazards arising from oil drilling along the Niger Delta.
  • Act as a liaison organ between the various oil drilling companies in matters regarding oil pollution control and prevention.


The National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency received the approval of the Federal Executive Council of Nigeria for the purpose of promoting prevention and control of oil pollution. He Agency was pioneered by the Ministry of Environment which also redrafted the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP) for approval by the Federal Executive Council of Nigeria. NOSCP was established as a subsidiary of the NOSDRA to be managed and run by the NOSDRA (Alexandra Gas and Oil Connections, 2006). The agency and the contingency plan were established in accordance with the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness Response and Cooperation (OPRC90) which Nigeria ratifies. The redraft was tabled in the National Assembly of Nigeria for review and adjustments before being passed into oil pollution regulating law (Alexandra Gas and Oil Connections, 2006). Besides the efforts channeled to monitoring and adherence to oil and gas regulatory measures, the ministry is also charged with the duty of controlling oil and gas flare-out.Efforts towards the adoption of environmentally friendly drilling system are also underway (Alexandra Gas and Oil Connections, 2006).


Environmental pollution from oil companies and ships is also regulated by various petroleum guiding activities. The Federal Environmental Protection Agency of Nigeria in compliance with the international laws placed in effect the following conventions for environmental protection and oil pollution control:

  • African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural resources of 1968
  • Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution Damage of 1972
  • Endangered Species Decree Cap 108 LFN of 1990
  • Federal Environmental protection Agency Act Cap 131 LFN of 1990
  • Harmful waste Cap 165 LFN of 1990
  • International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for oil Pollution Damage of 1971
  • Mineral oil Safety regulations of 1963.



With the increase in oil spill and prevention awareness in West Africa, Nigeria established the Clean Nigeria Associates (CNA) in 1981 which is a conglomeration of eleven oil firms in the Nigerian country comprising even the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). The association was established for the purpose of mitigating liquid hydrocarbon spills and other petroleum products in the water bodies and environment at large (Nwilo and Badejo, 2005). With the key stakeholder being Shell Company, the company in partnership with other Nigerian oil companies belonging to the Nigeria Oil producers Trade Section (OPTS), founded the Niger Delta Environmental Survey (NDES) as a requirement of the Lagos Chambers of Commerce. NDES was adequately funded by the Shell Company, OPTS and the various state governments in which the Deltas and Rivers are found. As such, the NDES was entrusted with the following obligations:

  • To provide a conclusive description of the oil fields, their boundaries, the ecological zoning and the diverse uses into which renewable and non-renewable resources of nature can be put.
  • Provide an inclusive view of the nature of the different environments and the impact the environments have on the local people’s daily livelihood and health.
  • Offer a comprehensive analysis on the underlying relationships pertaining to land use, population distribution patterns, environment in relation to the industrial works and provision of a threshold for future planning of development activities.
  • Provide an instrumental layout for the advancement and running of the Niger Delta (NDES, 1996).


The EIA Decree No 86 of 1992 was put in place to develop a sustainable ecosystem. It is a legal requirement in Nigerian law that all the projects with negative effects in the environment must undertake the EIA regulations (Ntukekpo, 1996; Olagoke, 1996). It assesses the potential adversities various projects have on the environment; both direct and indirect implications. Moreover, it analyzed the short term, cumulative and long-term implications of the development projects to the environment as well as identifying the possible measures for mitigating the environmental adversities (Ozekhome, 2001). The execution of the EIAs is overseen by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency in assistance with the governmental environmental protection agencies.




Several state and federal agencies are in place in the West African country of Nigeria and are tasked with the duty of controlling and preventing environmental pollution as a result of oil spillages. These agencies include the Federal Ministry of environment, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), the National Maritime Authority and the State Ministry of Environment.


A simulation model for oil spills was devised as a responsive model for controlling spills and peril planning for assessment of the amount of damage caused by the impact (Rossouw, 1998). In the circumstance of oil spillages, the model can provide a slick so long as there’s the relevant meteorological information (Rossouw, 1998). Natural means can as well be applied in treating oil spillages. Moreover, measures such as use of absorbents, mechanical systems, combustion, sinking, gelling and dispersion can as well be implemented in controlling and treating pollution caused by oil spills. The natural means of oil spillage removal incorporates photochemical oxidation, evaporation, and dispersions (Wardley-Smith, 1977). Another ideal technique for managing oil pollution saga is through bioremediation (Hoff, 1993; Prince, 1993; Atlas 1995).


The Nigerian Meteorological Department developed the Satellite 1 which work in coordination with the Disaster Monitoring Constellation which is a worldly satellite which gives early warnings while transmitting information from real-time observations concerning deforestation, earthquakes, droughts and man-made calamities as observable from space. Sat-1 is Nigeria’s Orbit Satellite used for geographical mapping as well as checking the perennial oil pipeline vandalism problem and assisting in curbing oil spillages incidents. The satellite identifies and indicates the data on the point of oil spill in the water masses for use in the trajectory oil model. It also provides information on the oil-polluted areas of the coastal region and coastal waters to help in the oil clean-up process.


For the fight against sea pirates in the West African waters, the United States offered the Nigerian government three 180 feet (56 meters) refitted Navy patrol ships which were used in the Second World War to aid in the piracy control. The United Nationsalso communicated that the US was set to offer additional four Warships for combating piracy especially in the Niger Delta. The ships were refurbished at a cost of $3.5 million each by the Pentagon. The fruits of the joint effort by the US and the Nigerian governments in piracy control helped in reducing the oil spillages which resulted from attacked ships.



Objective oil spill operation mitigation depends on the period between the occurrence of spill and the time of response action taken to clear the spill. The above system helps in speeding up the response time and decision making duration in combating oil spills. The GIS information provides avenues for implementation of the models of oil drift forecast which predicts the wind pattern and influence of current on the spillage spots via a framework developed through computer programming (Milaka, 1995).GIS can be used for developing relevant information regarding the mapping of oil spill sensitivity using sets of thematic maps. All the requisite and necessary information for thematic representation of oil spill spots can be stored in the GIS system for future references. Besides, modeling can also be used as a tool for analyzing the effectiveness of any given contingency plan for oil hazards (Parthiphan, 1994).The regional spill response avenues will be fundamental in preventing and controlling oil spills along the coastline of the West African countries (Smith and Loza, 1994). The oil spill avenues will adopt the oil spill model in mitigating the menace. Data systems from airborne sources willassist in up-scaling the future oil spillage predictions (Sandberg, 1996).



This is a mapping system of a scale of between 1 and 10 which is used to show how sensitive a given location is or may be oil pollution hazards like exposure to petroleum substances. The maps are comprised of various geomorphic and physical features like shorelines and some biological features as well as socioeconomic features of agricultural fields. Oil spill planning response features like the recommended positioning of skimmers and booms are also found in some of the ESI maps. The sensitivity of every given feature to stress factors is shown by the unique colors and patterns assigned to the features. As such, the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) developed the threshold development standards for the coastal areas.The Nigerian oil companies use such standards in preparation of ESI mappings for their operational areas.


Creation of awareness on the effects of oil spillages is a fundamental area incorporated in by the oil spill management authorities in order to control the amount of damage caused by these spills to the environment. The oil spilling regulation and control authorities must therefore undertake wide campaigns in informing people about the hazards of oil spills and the relevant measures to be taken by the residents upon such spills. This does not only apply to Nigeria but to all the West African oil producing countries. The ways in which people can be enlightened on the dangers of oil spills are through media campaigns in the news media and radio broadcastings. Social media can as well be used to reach a wide number of people especially the youth since there is a massive following in the social media. Moreover, schools, colleges and universities can play lead role in sensitizing the society on dangers of oil pollution and the benefits of marine life thus the need to conserve the marine environment. People should desist from collecting spilt oil as it can explode and cause massive loss of life. Additionally, the oil companies and government in collaboration with other stakeholders should run informative advertisements on oil pollution measures and environmental protection measures as they seek public support in the process. With such strategies, prevention of oil pollution won’t be a hectic task and in an event of oil spill, there would be quick response and dissemination of information between the public and the concerned authorities as both parties shall have been enlightened on matters pertaining to such.



Specialized equipment is necessary for combating large oil spills which entails oil spill recovery using skimmers, containing the oil spread using booms and doing aerial surveillance by use of aircrafts. This calls for teamwork from various quarters of oil pollution regulation control which demands a regular training and exercise from the involved personnel. This will help in proper combating of the disastrous large scale oil spills as well as dissemination of information to earn public cooperation and confidence in the course of dealing with oil pollution regulations. For effective preparedness in combating oil spill pollution, proper training and experience is required for efficient execution of the contingency plans. Annual drills and exercises should be put in place incorporating all the stakeholders in the oil industry from government to the private sector. This will create a joint consortium for efficient Incident Command System. Training will therefore enlighten the communities around the oil fields on various disaster management techniques for preparedness to combat any emergency spill.

In conclusion of this chapter, it is therefore worth citing that an appropriate contingency plan for managing oil spill should possess the following characteristics;

  • The resources under risk should be properly assessed
  • Credible reactionary strategies should be developed
  • A well-structured consortium of oil pollution regulating bodies should be strengthened with adequate resources and equipment
  • Regular training and awareness creation should be put in place to mitigate the oil spill contingencies.

With such a plan, oil pollution control would be reduced to a non-issue across the West African countries. This is because first of all there would be teamwork in achieving the common objectiveof preventing oil pollution which the neighboring nations are tasked with. Once the resources under risk are assessed, various security measures such as insurance covers will be undertaken so as to enable indemnification upon occurrence of the oil spill dangers. The credible reactionary strategies would ease salvaging of lots of property before tremendous damage. Regular training will make people more acquainted with oil pollution prevention and handling of spills in case of such occurrences. Such acquaintance will simplify environmental protection since the vast majority shall be well-versed with pollution control such as the oil spill clean-up process and could therefore initiate the process before the arrival of the maritime authorities so as to prevent the spilt oil from spreading to larger surface areas. Moreover, the community shall develop quick response techniques and evacuation of property from the devastating loss that occurs in case of fire and explosion from the spilt oil.




The global statistics on marine environment pollution shows an increasing trend of marine environment pollution as a result of oil spill from ships and oil companies. The greater percentage of the effects of pollution is however experienced on land from industrial wastes discarded in the dry land, agricultural pesticides and herbicides run-off and urban effluents into the land. The amount of oil spills caused by marine incidents was found to be quite higher than the amounts that result from oil tanker incidents. This chapter therefore examines the international prescriptions established with respect to oil pollution control and regulation in all oil producing countries around the world including the West African oil producing countries. The prescriptions are basically an establishment of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in partnership with other stakeholders in the oil industry. The impacts these regulations have on controlling oil pollution shall also be looked upon in assessing the effectiveness of these regulations.


Precisely known as UNCLOS, the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea provides primary regulations pertaining to sea navigation activities to all its member states. The convention came into place in 1982. However, it’s not the only international sea regulation convention; other complementary conventions were also established to assist in the common aim of controlling marine pollution resulting from oil spills. Basically, Section Five of the convention is where the marine pollution regulatory provisions are addressed. These regulations are addressed under the “International Rules and National Legislation to Prevent, reduce and Control Pollution of the Marine Environment.” Article 211 of the convention directs its affiliate countries to formulate international rules and policies for preventing, reducing and controlling marine pollution caused by water vessels while promoting the integration of the rules and policies in an effective manner. The convention also obligates the United Nations member states to have their ships flying the flags of the respective countries for easy recognition on various international harbors and ports. These rules are made uniform to all the United Nations member countries for easy application and implementation. These provisions work in cohesion with other international conventions without any kind of contravention or overlap.


The IMO is a United Nations maritime organ entrusted with the responsibilities of ensuring marine environment safety and protection from pollution resulting from shipping operations in the sea waters. In the execution of its mandate, the IMO has well-laid sets of guiding principles for running its activities across all the United Nations member countries. As such, the three core objectives of the IMO are listed below;

  • Prevention of oil pollution
  • Response to environmental pollution as a result of oil spills
  • Compensation and Reinstatement of the aggrieved parties from the oil spill pollution.

4.2.1 Pollution Prevention in Marine Habitat

Pollution in the marine environment was first acknowledged in the 1950s where it was observed that the tankers needed to clean the tanks after discharging the oil products. This was done using hot water in order to clear all the oil deposits in the tanker to make it ready for loading of the next cargo. However, the environmentally unhealthy part of it was that the used oil water was drained into the water masses which eventually caused marine pollution. Later on a discovery was made that the oil residue could be stockpiled in the slop tank above the tanker for gravitational separation to occur between water and the oil since oil is scientifically less dense than water.This technique was to greatly help in reducing marine pollution along the sea ports resulting from the oil water residue produced while cleaning the tankers. With this technique, statistics indicate that close to eight hundred tons of residual oil was barred from finding its way in to the marine environment. By 1973, Nigeria had made significant development in the campaign towards marine pollution prevention from oil companies, ships and tankers. In a span of five years form 1973, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships precisely referred to as MARPOL was initiated to further the efforts made towards pollution control in the marine environment. Annex one of the MARPOL Convention outlined the following principles to be observed in the marine pollution control campaign;

  • The tankers were not to be found in certain specific areas
  • The shortest distance between the tankers and the nearby landmass was to be at least 50 nautical miles
  • The largest amount of oil discharge by the tankers per nautical mile was to be at most 30 liters
  • The tankers were to have operational oil discharge monitors, control systems and slop tanks.

Figure 4.1: Effectiveness of IMO Measures in Oil Pollution Regulation


(Source: IMO News, 1999)

Moreover, the convention stipulates a requirement that each of the United Nations member countries possess an international certificate for oil pollution prevention, oil record documentary, emergency oil pollution plan for the several ships, and port refurbishments among others.

Similarly, there is the International Convention Relating to Intervention on the High Seas in Cases of Oil Pollution Casualties which was enacted in 1969. The enactment of this convention was as a result of the Torrey Canyon tanker grounding off the UK coast. There was distress that the grounded tanker could cause tremendous marine pollution along the coastline since it was heavily loaded with crude oil. Article one of the provision therefore stated clearly that every state must act,

“To prevent, mitigate, or eliminate grave and imminent danger to their coastline or related areas from pollution or threat of pollution of the sea by oil, following upon amaritime casualty or acts related to such, which may be reasonably expected to result in major harmful consequence.”

The convention went further to strengthen the international public law relating to the marine pollution control as provided by the Law of Sea conventions. The salvage international conference of 1989 also addressed the issue of mitigating oil pollution and its tremendous damage. It categorically dwelled on environmental protection as a key provision of its conventions. It advocated for measures against physical destruction of human and marine health as well as inland waters and coastline resources and areas neighboring it. Coastal nations are thereby mandated by this international legal assertion on marine environment protection to act suitably against pollution or activities likely to cause pollution in the coastline by ensuring ready salvage operations in case of such oil spill incidents.

The Bunkers Convention was also put in place to regulate the shipping operations of the individual ship cargo carriers unlike the other conventions whose purpose were to deal with incidental cargo oil spills. As per the Bunkers Convention, individual ship owners were held accountable for any spillages caused by their ships. The convention operates on the basis of strict liability and vicarious liability thus compelling the ship owners to have their vessels insured.

4.2.2 Response to Oil Pollution in Marine Habitat

The run-away inflation in oil spillages incidents and its adversities son human life and marine habitat led to the establishment of the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation (OPRC), in the year1990. The convention was basically established to promote international togetherness in tackling oil pollution incidents through regional cooperation and unification across the world. Quick response to oil spills help in mitigating further damages that may result from spreading of the spilled oil over a wide water mass or land mass. Oil producing nations across the world need to collaborate in curbing the oil spillage menace through sharing of relevant information on past marine incidents regarding oil tankers, the responsive measures which were undertaken towards such incidents, the appropriate equipment for such incidences and the challenges experienced while undertaking the salvage processes. With this, the various oil producing nations will devise proper response plan in readiness for any kind of oil spillage incident. It is provided in the convention that:

  • The nations devise emergency plans for oil pollution
  • Reporting procedure towards oil pollution
  • Prompt response strategies upon reception of an oil spill incident report
  • National and Regional Quick response preparedness
  • Worldwide Oil Pollution Cooperation and Collaboration
  • Research and Development on the Oil Pollution Prevention subject


4.2.3 Armed Robbery, Piracy and Oil Spill

Oil cargo ships are faced with hazard from lots of risks in the sea waters specifically piracy and armed robbery. Pirates would unsuspectingly board the steaming ships especially at night, find their way to the captain’s bridge, hold the captains hostage or even handcuff them while the other team of the pirates raid the passengers of their valuables and money. Such incidences have sometimes led to the death of captains thus resulting to marine incidents and ultimately oil pollution if the raids were done on oil tanker ships (O’Neil, 2000).

For instance, the damage of the Exxon Valdez tanker led to the spillage of eleven million gallons of crude oilwhich had very disastrous impact on the marine along the coastline; the spillage spread to a distance of close to 1800 miles of coastline. This was however not as a result of piracy but due to the calamitous damage of the tanker. Though there are no properly documented reports on oil spills due to piracy attacks, piracy itself poses a lot of danger and threat to the shipping operations. West Africa among other areas such as Malacca Strait, South America and South China Sea are worldly known potential piracy spots in the shipping activities on the different world waters. Close to twenty five piracy attacks occurred in the West African waters between 1982 and 1986; which was the highest frequency ever reported within a period of four years worldwide (Focus on IMO, January 2000). The attacks particularly occurred on the anchored ships awaiting berth.

In 1989, seven piracy incidences were reported in the Malacca Strait waters. By 1991, an influx on piracy attacks was documented as the incidences rose from twenty eight to fifty every year. Most of the reported piracy incidences of ten happened at night than day time while the ships were steaming.In the South China Sea, between May and December 1993, forty two of all the sixty sevenpiracy attacks reported worldwide that year occurred in the South China Sea. Moreover, 98 piracy attacks of the reported 210 worldwide cases took place in the South China Sea waters in 1998.Piracy attacks reported in South American waters did happen while the ships were anchored at the ports with thirty eight cases being reported in 1998.


Table 4.1: Number of Piracy attacks recorded worldwide between1991-1999

Year 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
Total 107 106 103 90 188 228 247 202 285

(Source: Abhyanker, 1999)

From the table above, it is evident that the number of piracy attacks between the year 1991 and the year 1993 was averagely almost equal though it was a bit high. This shows that the efforts applied in controlling piracy and armed robbery was not effective enough hence such a high rate of piracy attacks of over a hundred attacksannually in each of the three years. In 1994, the number of attacks decreased significantly to 90 from 103 in 1993. This was an indication that the measures put in place to fight piracy were taking the right direction thus the trend of reduced attacks from 19991 to 1994. However, come 1995, the attacks doubled from 90 to 188. This was such a tragedy that was never expected and called for sophisticated piracy control techniques. Unfortunately, the combative measures never worked out as expected since the number continued to rise yearly up to 1997. The attacks slightly dropped in 1998 but again shot up in 1999 to 285. This phenomenon called together the international maritime authorities to move swiftly in working together thus leading to a number of maritime conventions being enacted between1991 and 1996 to aid in piracy and oil pollution control.

4.2.4 International Response to Piracy

The piracy influx in the world waters raised alarms and concerns of international magnitude especially the high frequency at Malacca Strait.With effect to that, the International Maritime Organization which is the worldwide maritime regulatory authority, disseminated two circulars; MSC/Cir. 622 and 623 where circular 622 communicated recommendations to various governments for prevention and suppression of piracy and armed robbery faced by the shippers in the world waters while circular 623 communicated Guidance to owners of the ships and ship operators and Crews on how to counter, combat and curb sea piracy and robbery with violence in the sea waters.


The tremendously devastating Torrey Canyon incident that sparked worldwide outrage and international media attention was the starting point of the establishment and signing of the various international treaties that came into place for joint oil pollution prevention and control in the marine environment. Majority of the member countries of the International Maritime Organization embraced the idea of international treaties for helping in fighting oil pollution prevention since it was a serious as well as a major problem among the member countries. This joint effort became fruitful in lowering the quantity of oil finding its way to the water masses through incidental spillages. The Annual Reports by the International Salvage Union (ISU) show that close to 6,700,000 tons of oil spills from crude tankerswere recovered between 1994 and `97 among the member countries. In 1997, close to 1,000,000 tons of oil was recovered from spills from crude carriers numbering twenty.

The worldwide oil pollution prevention proved to be very essential in marine environment protection by ensuring proper regulations of the shippers’ activities. Some special case areas prone to oil spill incidents have been given special attention which has seen a reduction in the oil spill incidents in such areas. The conventions have given emphasis on proper construction of ports and terminuses and proper ship design and maintenance for the achievement of the common objective of preventingoil spill pollution in the marine environment. For example, there have been established requirements on double hull shipping technique, harboring facilities in various ports, slop tanks and oil water separators on ships. Various oil producing nations affiliated to the international conventions have ensured no sub-standard oil carrier ships access their territorial waters in a move to strongly and strictly prevent marine oil pollution.

As it goes without say that unity is power, certainly the unified oil control and pollution prevention measures jointly undertaken by the international conventions affiliate member states yielded positive results in marine pollution control an environmental safety measures. West Africa greatly benefited from these conventions as the region was able to get international assistance in patrolling its waters form any kind of intrusion and illegal oil cargo tankers. With that, the Niger Delta was under proper surveillance to identify the perilous spots and thus warning tankers against such routes. The West African sea ports also received subsidiary funding from the international community for bettering their shipping activities given the resourceful oil products generated from the region, with one of its countries being the sixth largest oil produced in the world and that is Nigeria through its main oil well in the Niger Delta coastline.



The West African maritime industry has tremendously grown given the oiling activities happening along the areas’ coastline. Nigeria being the largest oil producer in the West African region, has benefitted tremendously form the growing shipping activities. The Nigerian coastline alone is 900km with numerous resources and natural features. The key resource being oil found in large quantities in the Niger Delta. The West African governments have put in place various authorities for regulating and overseeing the oiling activities so as to ensure environmental protection. For instance, in Nigeria, there is established the Ministry of transport, Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Ministry of Environment in both the national and federal governments ad they work in unison for achievement of oil prevention control. Marine pollution is regulated using the 1954 Oil Pollution Convention.The numerous opportunities presented by the maritime authorities create potential avenues for preventing and controlling oil pollution in the Niger Delta. However, there are certain shortcomings that come with the conventions of the maritime regulatory authorities as mentioned below;

  • Non-compliance to some of the conventions by oil companies and some shippers
  • Piracy threat across the West African sea waters
  • Lack of properly constituted statutory marine legal framework for handling marine-related environmental issues
  • Ill-equipped national oil spill contingency plan among the West African countries
  • Inappropriate training and equipment towards oil pollution control and management skills

With the aforementioned shortcomings, the various governments can draft or redraft an all-inclusive and objective mission and vision statement encompassing all the challenging areas so as to lay down an effectively operational marine environmental protection and oil pollution prevention in the West African sea waters (Dzidzornu, 1994).


As such, the various governments can incorporate the following in establishing an effectively fruitful maritime structure:

  • Providing a feasible pollution regulatory framework for enhancing pollution control and ultimate prevention if possible.
  • Adequate funding and positioning for quick response in the event of oil spillages.
  • Incorporation of a comprehensive contingency plan befitting international maritime environmental protection by working in partnership with the various international maritime authorities.
  • Offering proper oil spill management training
  • Effective and feasible initiatives on ballast water management techniques
  • Proper designing and construction of reception facilities at the shores
  • Elaborate mapping for identification of potentially pollution sensitive marine areas for proper measures in taking care of such areas

From a typical case study of Nigeria, it is evident that West Africa has undertaken several development measures regarding oil pollution control in the marine environment. Moreover, the countries have utilized the economically revenue-rich oil businesses to develop their infrastructure like ports and harbors, feeder roads and more advanced oil tankers for transportation of oil across the world. Oildrilling in the region started on the onshore but has gone offshores over time as economic need for oil increases and other oil-rich fields are also discovered. To ascertain that West Africa is indeed rich in oil, Nigeria has been ranked the sixth largest oil producer in the entire world with numerous barrels of oil produced from its Niger Delta oil field. This has led to attraction of various multinational oil companies to the West African region; Shell Oil Company has been in operation in Nigeria for over decades now and there are no signs of the company leaving the country any soon despite the frequent kidnapping of its staff and pipelines by the militant groups in Nigeria.

Still on the oil-rich West African region, Nigeria alone has six major and fully productive oil fields with her own cargo tankers for ferrying the oil to international markets. The country signed a mutual business contract with the main multi-national oil plcs like shell allowing the companies to exploit the oil fields as well as developing the fields after which the oil dividend returns are shared between the Nigerian government and the companies. The government is as such by its national Ministry of Petroleum Resources. Domestically used oil products are refined at the local National Nigerian Oil Company with four refineries, three located along the Niger Delta sub-region with pipeline conveyers for transporting the oil products. Besides, oil exploration in Nigeria has seen the development of nine seaports in Nigeria; five located in the Niger Delta area. These developments however infrastructural and economically fundamental, they come with negative implications to the communities living along the coastline. An oil spill incident is recorded in the area after at least every two months as a result of the incessant oil loading activities at the ports and militant vandalism of the oil pipelines along the Niger Delta.

Precisely, the following measures would be fundamental in curbing marine environmental pollution resulting from oil spillages;

  • Identifying and protecting the spillage sites from any kind of intrusion
  • Devising spill reduction measures
  • Monitoring and containing the spread of the spilled oil
  • Adequate protection of the vulnerable resources; evacuating them if possible
  • Recovering the spillages
  • Cleaning the polluted areas as a result of spillages
  • Refurbishment and rebuilding of the damaged resources and sites
  • Offering requisite training and pollution combating techniques

Finally, the extent to which the implementation of the contingency plan can be successful in curbing marine environment pollution is dependent on the coordination and teamwork of the various established response teams.  Luckily enough, the oil spills that have been experienced in the West African countries are usually not of such a large peril and therefore can be controlled and even prevented if the best effort is applied with dedication, teamwork, skills and well-coordinated contingency plan execution.



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