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Environmental audit finds loopholes at ports

Published:Tuesday | December 16, 2014 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju

Poor housekeeping practices and improper maintenance of equipment were the main reasons for environmental breaches identified by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) in the preliminary phase of its assessment of port facilities in Kingston, St Andrew and St Catherine.

In April, the agency began to look into operations at the ports to identify potential threats to the environment, especially related to the storage and loading/offloading of hazardous material.

"We have got some information from some of the ports but not sufficient yet to see a full picture but what we've seen already is that materials which are hazardous to the environment are not properly stored," Dr Kerrine Senior, manager of NEPA's pollution prevention branch, told The Gleaner. "We have where there have been pollution incidents which have not been ameliorated, not sufficiently enough and as such cause contamination of the environment."

self-reporting companies

Still, she said, the agency was encouraged by the fact that most of the companies were in fact self-reporting, that is calling to inform it of incidents which were likely to harm the environment.

"If the pipeline runs underground and into the sea and the port facility is an area with high wave action, there is hardly a chance, unless somebody is there 24/7, that maybe you will know that you have an incident but thankfully most of the facilities have been self reporting when they have incidents," Senior said.

Even though describing it as early days yet, the scientist explained that it was necessary to share with the facilities its protocol on the transfer of hazardous material from vessels to the ports, focusing on the structural integrity of tanks and pipelines, as well as all conduits conveying hazardous material.

"Coming out of this we have prepared some guidelines for loading and offloading of hazardous material, not only for the ports but it can apply right across the board - materials are transferred," the scientist shared.

"These guidelines also inform how the connections are made and the protocol that should be in place, including how individuals should communicate to prevent overflows and so on. So we have not yet put all the pieces together but we have made some significant findings."