Prevent further Ship-to-Ship Fuel Bunkering in Algoa Bay

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Prevent further Ship-to-Ship Fuel Bunkering in Algoa Bay

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SANCCOB started this petition to South African Government and

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) recently announced that the moratorium on issuing new licences for ship-to-ship (STS) bunkering in Algoa Bay will be lifted from 1 April 2022. This petition calls for the moratorium to be reinstated.

Environmental organisations have opposed STS bunkering (which involves the transfer of fuel from one vessel to another while at sea) since it was initially permitted in Algoa Bay in 2016. Their opposition is due to the high risks involved and the proximity to foraging and breeding grounds of endangered marine species, like the iconic African penguin. 

These concerns raised by conservationists have been realised over the past six years as three oil spills have occurred as a direct result of fuel STS bunkering, affecting endangered African penguins and other threatened seabird species. The impact of oil pollution on marine life must not be underestimated; research has shown that in the long term, African penguins that were oiled, cleaned and released have lower breeding success than unoiled birds.

The moratorium was placed on 22 August 2019 pending the finalisation of a Holding Capacity and Environmental Risk Assessment Study. However, while an Anchorage Holding Capacity Study (commissioned by SAMSA) was completed in 2020, the Environmental Risk Assessment to be commissioned by the Transnet National Port Authority (TNPA) has yet to commence. In the absence of a robust environmental study, environmental organisations are strongly opposing the decision to lift the moratorium. It is additionally deeply problematic that users of Algoa Bay have not been afforded a public participation opportunity through a meaningful consultative process.

Algoa Bay is a marine biodiversity haven, recognised by the declaration of the Addo Elephant National Park Marine Protected Area. St Croix Island previously held the largest African penguin breeding colony in the world, and Bird Island currently holds the world’s largest Cape gannet breeding colony, with two-thirds of the global population breeding at this site. These islands form part of a global Important Bird and Biodiversity Area, and South Africa has undertaken international obligations to conserve both of these species. The African penguin population is declining at an alarming rate due to anthropogenic threats, including oil pollution. St Croix Island, the closest island to STS bunkering activities has suffered a staggering 80% decline of African penguins in the past five years. During this time, vessel numbers have more than doubled in the bay, with bulk carriers having increased more than threefold. Vessel activity has been concentrated in shipping lanes and anchorage areas, where bunkering services are located, that overlap important foraging areas for penguins from St Croix Island. Scientists are currently investigating the impacts of marine noise pollution associated with these activities on African Penguins. This threat cumulates with others such as oiling and competition with fisheries, and certainly contributes to the rapid and significant decline of penguins at this colony. African Penguins are known to avoid waters with excessive marine noise as was the case for penguins from St Croix Island during seismic survey activities in 2013.

Fuel STS bunkering has been approved to boost much-needed economic potential off South Africa's coastline, with promises of job creation. Environmental organisations recognise the importance of these objectives and are supportive of socio-economic initiatives that are ecologically sustainable (as envisaged by section 24 of the South African Constitution). However, it is crucial that decision-making regarding STS bunkering be informed by a proper understanding of the full variety of risks that this activity poses to the sensitive ecosystem and species in Algoa Bay (as well as to other social and economic activities), and the potential for mitigating these risks.

If you care about protecting the environment and believe in a thorough, consultative process, add your voice to this petition and share it far and wide. If additional operators are granted licences to transfer fuel in Algoa Bay, this simply increases the risk of oil pollution incidents, and vessel traffic which will further impact the marine ecosystem and species such as the endangered African penguin. It is unacceptable for more licences to be granted without meaningful consideration of these impacts and without concerned citizens being afforded an opportunity to express their views.

By adding your name to this petition, you are registering your concern and requesting that the South African government:

- Reinstates the moratorium on issuing new licences for STS bunkering in Algoa Bay.

- Ensures that a thorough assessment of the environmental (as well as the social and economic) risks associated with STS bunkering is completed before any consideration is given to lifting the moratorium again.

- Provides opportunities for public comment before the issuance of any long-term bunkering authorisation for Algoa Bay or other areas.

 

 

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