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 16 Mar 2018

By Eveline De Klerk

Swakopmund — Investigations are ongoing to determine the origin of the oil spill that was washed ashore at Walvis Bay on Thursday evening. The worst spill seemed to be localised just in front of the Aphrodite Beach, according to the Namibian Dolphin Project, the research and conservation organisation involved in cleaning up the spill.

The Directorate of Maritime Affairs, which is conducting the investigation, declined to comment or share any details despite having compiled and submitted a report to its head office in Windhoek on Friday. The directorate's Patrick Shilishebo told New Era that he is not at liberty to comment on the oil spill at this stage.

The Namibian Navy detected the oil spill on Thursday while patrolling the Namibian coastline.

According to a highly placed naval official, a team of expert divers was dispatched by the Navy early Friday morning, following consultations with the Directorate of Maritime Affairs, to establish the magnitude of the oil spill as well as to stop it from spreading further.

The official told New Era on Friday morning that they suspected an old vessel that was impounded by the Namibian Port Authority and has been anchored for quite a while to be responsible for the oil spill.

Meanwhile, the Namibian Dolphin Project posted an update on its Facebook page that it is "all hands on deck to clean up as Directorate of Maritime Affairs, Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Namibian Port Authority, Walvis Bay Municipality, Namibian Navy and Army as well as members of a shipping company and two of our team members pulled together to begin the clean up."

The Namibian Dolphin Project also says a number of seabirds are covered in oil but have not been captured yet. "We spotted several oiled birds in the area. None of which could be captured. We expect more weakened seabirds to be found over the next few days," the organisation said.

Namport on their part indicated on Friday that they have already launched an investigation to locate whoever is responsible for the oil spill. The spill occurs after Namibia appointed a new management committee of the National Marine Pollution Contingency Plan in October last year to take a closer look at Namibia's marine pollution preparedness and response system. The committee is tasked to ensure that sound policies are in place to allow Namibia to respond accordingly when the need arises.

The previous policy, the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan, is outdated, ineffective and unsustainable for the fast-evolving marine pollution risks, as it was developed in 2007.

During the first management committee meeting, deputy director of pollution control, Pinehas Auene indicated that there was a need for Namibia to have an effective marine pollution preparedness and response system in place to manage marine pollution risks swiftly and effectively.