In 2019 an oil spill reached more than 2,000 km of the Brazilian coast in an unprecedented incident of catastrophic proportions. More than 5,000 tons of oil waste were collected from shores in 11 states, a volume 20 times larger than the sum of all oil incidents reported since 2012. The origin of the spill remains unknown.
The incident shed light on the challenges related to the ability to respond to major oil incidents and the important role that ports can play in emergency response actions. As connecting nodes between land and sea, ports are a key stakeholder for collaboration in response actions, as they concentrate significant emergency resources, act as support base for sea operations and are the ideal place to gather those involved in an emergency response.
Strategically located and relying on terminals that provide specialized offshore support to oil companies, Açu set up a task-force to manage and respond to the event. Drills, community engagement, wildlife monitoring and drone flights were some of the efforts implemented as part of the Emergency Preparedness Project. The Port of Açu proved its capacity to be one step ahead, engaging preventively through integrated actions that demonstrated in practice that the port sets safety standards that can add effectiveness to oil response frameworks.
The incident reinforced the importance of integrated actions between all stakeholders involved in managing a major emergency and the relevant contribution from the Port in terms of preparing for an efficient response to oil spills. In countries with significant oil production, ports must set higher safety standards, proactively engage into contingency plans and be prepared to act in a coordinated manner in emergency response situations.