The Joint Environment Unit supported UN Environment in the organization of a scoping mission to Benin in response to legacy pollution from abandoned oil platforms. The mission was conducted at the request of the Benin Minister of Environment.
The mission confirmed that the offshore oil platforms are in a state of advanced disintegration. Also, the network of pipelines between the platforms, onshore facilities and export facilities have not been maintained or systematically inspected since 1998. Likely scenarios of an oil spill were discussed with officials of the Government of Benin, including leakage from the subsea pipeline, loss of control of one of the ten wells or a ship crashing onto the abandoned facilities in bad weather.
An oil spill from these facilities can cause great damage to the environment and threaten local fishery communities. Fish is the most important source of animal protein in the diet of the Beninese households, of which more than one third are food insecure (WFP). The fishing sector in Benin generates also 600,000 direct and indirect jobs (FAO, 2008). With the Nigerian coastline only 30 kilometers away, transboundary impacts are very likely.
While waiting to raise funds for full dismantling, recommendations to increase preparedness and reduce liability are under development, including the establishment of a national contingency plan and a national coordination mechanism in the event of an oil spill.