A BREAK-UP of a major oil tanker at sea along South Africa’s coastline – the second longest part of which borders the Eastern Cape – could prove a disaster of monumental proportions as the country is under-insured for such eventualities, maritime industry experts have warned.
The matter is among top issues up for discussion at South Africa’s first national maritime industry indaba in Cape Town next week. Participants will include President Jacob Zuma, Transport Minister Dikobe Ben Martins and senior representatives of several other government departments.
Private sector senior leaders from mining, oil and gas, fishing, legal, engineering, academic and other maritime-related economic sectors will also be involved.
Government, specifically Martins, is expected to come under pressure at the conference from maritime industry experts for its failure to take appropriate steps to secure adequate disaster cover funding for the country’s coastline, particularly against likely oil pollution in the event of an oil tanker breaking up.
With as many as 200 such vessels, including super oil tankers, travelling along South Africa’s coastline every month – and an increasing number docking at Coega’s deep water port – it was only a matter of time before a major pollution disaster occurred, according to Cape Town University professor of shipping law John Hare.
And when this happened, South Africa would be left to foot the bill from its own coffers as it was grossly under-insured.
A clean-up of a major oil spill could cost anything up to R20-billion, while South Africa had cover from an international fund amounting to only R185-million, he said.
In a scathing letter to Martins earlier this month, Hare said government had over 16 years failed to take appropriate steps through promulgation of necessary legislation to enable the country to secure adequate insurance cover for such events, despite numerous efforts and work provided by both academics and the maritime industry to assist government with the matter.
Hare will be among presenters at the Cape Town conference next Thursday.