As part of wider efforts to raise awareness and build capacity among key stakeholders in the ATS region, the ATSEA-2 Project held a series of informative webinars in 2022, covering topics related to conservation of habitats and resources. As the year drew to a close, this quarterly webinar series was concluded with a pair of sessions featuring experts from Oil Spill Response Limited (OSRL) and the ATSEA-2 Project.

Hosted by Norman Lorica Ramos from OSRL, the penultimate webinar of the year was held on 28 September. Almerindo Oliveira da Silva from UNDP Timor-Leste provided an introduction to ATSEA-2, while Ali Heyder Alatas from OSRL presented a Net Environmental Benefit Analysis (NEBA)/Spill Mitigation Analysis (SIMA) and Johnson Maren from the Papua New Guinea National Maritime Safety Authority delivered a case study of a crude palm oil spills in Papua New Guinea (PNG). The session was attended by a total of 80 online participants from eight countries (Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mozambique, PNG, Peru, the Philippines and Singapore).

Alatas described the Net Environmental Benefit Analysis (NEBA) – now called Spill Impact Mitigation Assessment (SIMA) – which is a tool for making the right choices to minimise the impacts of spills and balance the trade-offs involved. NEBA/SIMA is an ongoing process that should be conducted before, during and after oil spill incidents. The following principles of NEBA/SIMA were raised in the webinar: (1) Facilitate transparency and stakeholder involvement (be done during ‘peace’ time); (2) Target the most serious consequences of oil spills; (3) Promote a full response tool kit that assesses the pros and cons of various strategies; (4) Integrate ecological, socio-economic and cultural considerations in response.

The processes outlined and explored in the webinar included evaluating data, predicting outcomes, balancing trade-offs and selecting the best options. For example, when selecting a contingency plan, it is better to choose the scenario which seems most likely.

To provide a practical example of such process in action, Maren related how PNG had successfully contained a raw crude palm oil spill off the coast of Kimbe Town. He divulged details of the spill, including its cause, NMSA’s assessment, response and outreach to affected community members. Other details covered clean-up operations, waste management practices and the wider environmental and socio-economic impacts of the spill.

The fourth and final webinar took place on 28 November 2022 and covered three interesting topics – Oiled Wildlife Response (OWR) and Oil Spill Risk Assessment (OSRA). This session was hosted by Hon Phui Hang from OSRL, while a case study from Indonesia on the prevention of pollution and damage to marine environments in East Nusa Tenggara Province by Sulastry Rasyid on behalf of Ondy Christian Siagian from the Agency of Environment and Forestry of Nusa Tenggara Province.  Shahreena Shahnavas from OSRL acted as the facilitator of the webinar and Dwi Ariyoga Gautama from UNDP Indonesia provided a brief background of the ATSEA-2 Project. The webinar was attended by participants from Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and PNG.

Hon provided information about OWR, concerning the effects of oil on wildlife, response strategies, critical components of a response, planning for OWR and OSRL’s Tier 3 Wildlife Response Services. The most impacted wildlife are generally seabirds, along with certain sea turtles and marine mammals. Oil spills can also impact human populations (demonstrated in high rates of foetal and neonatal loss, and lower rates of annual reproduction). OWR aims to minimise the impacts of oil spills on wildlife through a combination of prevention and mitigation. Response strategies are classified as follows: Primary (keeping oil away from animals through response, surveillance and monitoring); Secondary (keeping animals away from oil by hazing, deterrence and displacement); Tertiary (mitigating impacts on oiled animals through capture and rehabilitation).

Hon then continued to outline an Oil Spill Risk Assessment (OSRA); a vital part of the planning process, which should involve all relevant stakeholders. OSRA incorporates seven assessment steps, usually conducted by the private sector but more beneficial if initiated by governments in their capacity as a regulatory body: (1) Establish the context of the assessment

(2) Hazard identification

(3) Likelihood analyses

4) Consequence analyses

5) Establish and evaluate the risk

6) Risk reduction

7) Input to oil spill response planning.

Rasyid used the 2009 Montara wellhead platform case study to illustrate the economic cost and losses due to oil spills impacting coastal areas. She also covered challenges faced by the Indonesian government in using economic valuation to make claims from the loss. As a key lesson learned from the incident, the government of East Nusa Tenggara Province formed a team to look into developing concrete procedures for facing marine pollution and environmental damage in future.

Both Da Silva and Gautama reiterated the strategic importance of the webinar series for ATSEA-2, as it addressed one of the major issues facing the ATS region: land- and marine-based pollution, specifically oil spills and marine litter. The webinar series facilitated information sharing and built capacity among ATS stakeholders for oil spill preparedness and response. Topics progressed from awareness of oil spill impacts to understanding risks and effective response.

During the final remarks of the webinar series, Shahnavas noted that the webinar series established a great journey between ATSEA-2 and OSRL, increasing awareness of the risk and impacts of an oil spill, specifically in the ATS region.

“As the consciousness of these issues has been raised, momentum to make positive changes in improving ATS should take traction,” she added.

By Casandra Tania