OIL SPILL IN MOMBASA
 
The recent oil spill from Indian oil tanker MT Ratna Shalini (5,5178 GT) spread to shoreline causing environmental and property damage.
 
MT Ratna Shalini laden with 80,000 tonnes of crude oil was damaged as she berthed at the Mombasa Port oil terminal on April 7th 2005.
 
One of her tanks loaded with 3,000 tonnes of crude oil was punctured on the starboard side of the vessel and about 200 tonnes of oil spilled into the sea.
 
Pollution control experts from the Kenya Maritime Authority, Kenya Ports Authority, the oil spill Mutual Aid Group and Kenya Navy managed to contain the spill, but due to un-preparedness and ill-equipment the oil spill spread to the coastline about 5 km away from the port and some of the spill spread for about 150 cubic meters inside the port area.
 
Since 7th April 2005 when the oil spill occurred no assessment has been carried out on the property damage, environmental damage and loss of income to fishing community caused by the oil spill.
 
Kenya is amongst the 86 member states of the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund (IOPCF) but owing to the outdated maritime laws of Kenya the owners of the ill-fated vessel will pay only USD $ 1 Million. It beats reason at what criteria the Kenya government used to arrive at the USD $ 1 Million penalty.  For, it is too early to quantify the damage caused by the oil spill. Scientifically, the damage can only be quantified after an assessment that can only be done after two (2) weeks when the effects of ecological manifestation will start showing. The ill-fated vessel is a single hull-tanker built in 1987 and she is due to be faced out in August this year as per the new IMO requirement.
 
The spillage comes after a new IMO regulation that bans carrying heavy grade oil in single-hull tankers came into force on April 5th 2005.
 
The new IMO requirement is designed to reduce the risk of spills from oil tankers involved in low-energy collisions or groundings.
 
MT Ratna Shalini is owned by India steamship, of Kolkata, India.
 
The coastal waters of many African countries contain some of the world’s richest ecosystems, characterized by coral reefs, sea grass meadows, mangrove forests, estuaries and floodplain swamps.
 
Coastal ecosystems are not only an important source for essential products for mankind, including foods, medicine, raw materials and recreational facilities, but also provide ecological services that directly benefit the coastal zone.
 
Approximately 39 km of shoreline along which 27 fish landing sites located were polluted by oil of which 22 kilometers were heavily impacted. Shorelines consisted of a mixture of sand, pebbles and mangroves as well as seawalls.
 
Fishing and Mari culture activities taken along the affected area included intertidal harvesting of marine products, inshore fishing with dugout canoes and set nets, crab culture farms and on shore hatcheries producing a range of marine products.  
Many of these activities also suffered the direct effects of the oil spill.

Apart from the environmental damage to marine organisms and mangroves, the fishing communities also suffered heavily loss of income due to property damage caused by the oil spill.

Andrew Mwangura
Programs Coordinator
Seafarers Assistance Program