Mr Egbert Faibille Jnr, Chief Executive Officer, Petroleum Commission, has advised fishermen to stay off safety zones earmarked within the offshore oil rigs to avoid calamity to their lives, properties, and to the nation.
He said staying away from the Advisory and Exclusion Zones that sited the expensive Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSOs) vessels that play critical role in Ghana’s oil and gas industry, by fishermen, would also promote peaceful co-existence among the various users of the marine space.
Ghana’s hydrocarbon exploration, development and production, which have been mainly offshore has intensified with about 18 acreages awarded to 16 companies, with a key arising challenge of frequent and increasing incursions into the Advisory and Exclusion Zones by fishermen.
Available data indicates that within the last five year period, over 32,000 incursions involving fishermen, have been recorded causing impasse among the fishermen and the oil producing companies.
“These breaches do not only place fishermen in grave danger but unnecessarily put critical offshore facilities and infrastructure at risk” Mr Faibille said at a virtual workshop on Safe Sea Access Framework and Cumulate Impact Co-Management Platform, hosted by the Petroleum Commission in Accra.
The Safe Sea Access Framework (SSAF) was borne out of a study which forms part of the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee (MFAC)’s Action Plans to ensure strategic co-existence of oil and gas and fisheries sectors.
The workshop was held to solicit stakeholders inputs and financial support in designing roadmaps that would guide the implementation of the SSAF, and the Influx Management Plan.
Mr Faibille explained that to be able to sustainably exploit the country’s endowed and abundant natural resources for the collective benefit of all, there was the need for a conscious effort to ensure that there were no conflicts within, between or among various sectors of the economy.
“In our specific case, 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.
“It is against this backdrop that the Safe Sea Access Framework was developed. It is also imperative that aggregate impacts of oil and gas activities are co-managed through coordination and collaboration among stakeholders”.
Mr Faibille explained that with the final report of the SSAF study having been submitted to the Petroleum Commission following a Stakeholder consultations two years ago in Takoradi, the Commission deemed it fit to lead in an industry-wide approach to implementing the recommendations therein.
In 2017 the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank Group (WBG) in collaboration with key stakeholders played a convening and advisory role in the identification and implementation of mechanisms and strategies for managing cumulative effects associated with multiple oil and gas projects in the Western region by focusing on the highest risk issues, he stated.
He assured that going ahead, the Commission and other government agencies notably, the EPA, GMA and Fisheries Commission would continue to engage the industry players, the fishermen, and the local authorities to chart a new course in managing impact of oil and gas activities collaboratively.
He commended Tullow Ghana and the Jubilee partners for sponsoring the development of the SSAF and the World Bank for collaborating with the government on “this important National Assignment”.
He expressed the hope that the interaction, would provide the opportunity to share ideas and each other’s comments and observations with the view to ensuring a safer sea for oil and gas operations as well as getting a well-functioning Platform to manage the impacts of oil and gas operations on the environment and host communities cumulatively.
Mr Ben Asante, Director of Petroleum, Ministry of Energy, emphasized the need for such collaborations to ensure a safe sector for users of the marine environment and also protect the sea.
Mr Joseph Yeboah, Assistant Director, Fisheries Commission, said the onset of oil in commercial quantity had been characterised by numerous complaints from fishermen on their ceased nets, tying of their canoes to moorings of the oil rigs, and threat of their livelihood, emphasising the importance of such a platform to finding solutions to them once and for all.
Mr Mike Abeka, Secretary, National Canoe Fishermen Council, lauded the initiative to addressing the impasse between fishermen and the oil companies, adding that transponders should be secured to be fitted in the canoes of the fishermen to sway them off the safe enclaves.