A three-day regional workshop on the London Convention and Protocol in West Africa aimed at preventing marine pollution began in Accra on Wednesday to increase awareness on the effects of waste dumping at sea.
The workshop comes off at the heels of the consequential shipping and related maritime activities that would soon take place along the Ghana's territorial waters as a result of the oil find.
Six other countries within the sub-region, namely, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau, Nigeria, Liberia and the Gambia are attending the workshop, under the theme: "Working Towards Protecting the Maritime Environment".
Professor Christopher Ameyaw-Akumfi, Minister of Harbours and Railways, who opened the workshop, stressed the importance of the Convention in protecting the country's territorial waters, especially with the impending oil exploration.
"As a result, we all need to consider the negative impact associated with activities on the marine environment and the design of proactive measures to forestall their occurrence," he added.
The Minister noted that government had already taken proactive measures for the effective implementation of the Conventions domestically, except the MARPOL Convention Annexes 111-VI, which were currently due for consideration by Cabinet.
The MARPOL Convention is an International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, which is applicable world-wide.
It consists of the Articles, which contain general regulations and definitions, and six Annexes dealing with different types of marine pollution by ships.
He said the country had also ratified the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage and the Establishment of Oil Pollution Damage Fund to become a qualified beneficiary for compensation under their regimes as a risk management policy.
Prof. Ameyaw-Akumfi said works have also been initiated for the installation of an electronic surveillance system with coverage range of 200 nautical miles into the sea and a complete coastline stretch from Axim to Odaa for 24-hour surveillance on territorial waters and the economic exclusive zone.
The Minister further advised all stakeholders, especially fishermen, beach resort operators and oil and gas project executors to attend the workshop to maximise its profits.
Mr. Issaka Peter Azuma, Director-General of the Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA), pointed out that the recent dumping of toxic chemicals within the territorial waters of a sister country was still fresh in memory and its recurrence should never be repeated.
He said it was as a result of such threats that the GMA in collaboration with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) had organised the workshop to expose state parties of the Convention to the dangers of disposal of waste within the Gulf Steam.
On what Ghana was doing, Mr Azuma hinted that Ghana had since the beginning of the year commenced the implementation of a Port State Control Programme, as recommended in the Abuja Memorandum of Understanding at the last IMO regional meeting.
He said the Programme was ensuring that sub-standard ships from foreign countries were not permitted to operate within Ghana's territorial waters as practiced in other regional blocks.
"As a matter of fact, we will not compromise on our port state control measures on un-seaworthy ships especially crude oil carriers and chemical tankers.
Mr Azuma pledged the GMA would intensify its auditing programme on operators of reception facilities and off-shore monitoring systems in order
to prevent possible pollution of the marine environment.
Mr Michael Luguje, IMO Representative, in a speech read on his behalf, charged the sub-region to do more to protect its marine environment, considering its rapid growth in the oil and gas sectors.
The London Convention was adopted in 1972 and modernized in 1996 to make way for few accepted wastes such as dredged material, sewage, sludge, fish waste and wrecked vessels.