Combating Marine Debris Pollution in Nigerian Ports: A Case Study

1. Introduction

Given that many pollution preventive garbage measures and national/regional water quality standards have recently been attempted for control and avoidance of pollution in marine conditions in Nigeria Navy, there has recently been growing concern about marine particle pollution as well as its effect on the water environment. When pollution levels in the globe’s oceans come to such a point that marine life can easily not endure and the oceans cannot support their many different uses, ocean pollution turns into a lot parcel violation of international law. It is also defined in the Socmeticulous Act on Nigeria Port Harcourt town, every single power controlling any course or part of the Niger meant for navigation shall cause all of the needed steps to be utilized within a good period of time not exceeding thirty-five days and nights beginning along with the end of the period given in the event for cleaning of such watercourse of all deposit, dirt, filth, and waste matters including the time frame and recent cleaning process which are simply being completed and will bring about maintaining. Environmental research on marine debris not only aimed at getting rid of debris already occurring in marine surroundings but also proposed to increase protection to minimize any kind of food and wildlife exposure and to prevent new litter from accumulating.

1.1 Background

Seaports are one of the main gateways for goods transportation within and outside Nigeria. Ships from an inestimable number of countries move in and out of the various ports, discharging several goods and taking others. However, these ports seem to have few waste disposal points and lack area sanitary and cleaning functions. Some irregular operation and management of the ports, poor enforcement of regulations against dirty ships, and inadequacy of waste reception facilities can lead to marine debris pollution. Marine debris has become an increasing environmental, navigational, economic, human health, and hazardous safety problem. It is defined as any persistent solid material that is manufactured or processed and directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally disposed of or abandoned into the marine environment. It is worth mentioning here that marine debris pollution in Nigeria’s marine waters and ports has developed into a serious situation but has always been overlooked by relevant agencies. There is no clear evidential study to reveal the amounts of debris/pollutants in the ports and its effects as it affects the area. This is due to the fact that a very few number of researchers tried to investigate this area of study. There were several reports on oil pollution in the ports, but not in the advent of an integrated serious attention to marine debris pollution. The focus of many researchers had been on oil pollution in the maritime industry. (2018-loop) This study has three specific objectives. First, it is aimed to assess the amount and sources of marine debris in Nigerian ports. Secondly, it is to determine the actual and potential impacts of the pollution in the area. Thirdly, the study is to recommend strategies for combating the pollution based on the findings. The primary data was collected by conducting site observations and the last five years’ dry weather inspection in all the 5 major ports. The dry weather inspection involves drainage out of the port waste by opening all the sluices and manholes in the main operational and storage areas, so that any formation of water or waste could be traced out to the discharge points and finally to the marine waters. Visual inspection on the water quality, quantity, and type of floating and settled debris had been carried out. The data have been backed up by interview sessions with the marine staff and by questionnaires surveying the public. As a whole, the marine staff felt that insufficient equipment and technical support were available to combat the pollution, which is compatible with the findings in other modern countries. On the other hand, the general public noticed the presence of debris along the shoreline and recognized the seriousness of the pollution. Both the descriptive and hypothesis form of details relating to the opinions and conclusion of the paper would be included in the analysis chapter.

1.2 Problem Statement

The growing use of products made of plastics, combined with the inappropriate ways in which certain people dispose of them, has caused a serious form of pollution. This pollution is called marine debris pollution, and it represents a danger to marine life and human activities in ports and waterways. Marine debris pollution is having an increasing impact in Nigerian ports. Ports are particularly important environments to study worldwide because ports act as major centers for the generation of marine debris and as key engines for economic growth. However, there is a lack of systematic and quantitative assessments on the levels of marine debris in Nigerian ports, and a limited understanding of the factors that contribute to the pollution. There is also a lack of effective strategies and measures to combat marine debris in Nigerian ports, with existing port waste and debris management systems often failing to address the specific wastescapes of ports. Therefore, the particular study of marine debris pollution in Nigerian ports has significant importance and can play a crucial role in the investigation of this global problem. This research aims to investigate and assess the marine debris pollution in Nigerian ports, identify the factors contributing to the pollution, and propose strategies to combat the pollution. The research focuses on four primary objectives. First, the study aims to identify the various types of marine debris items found in Nigerian ports and to classify their main sources. Second, the research aims to investigate the spatial distribution and the quantity – in weight and volume – of marine debris pollution in Nigerian ports. Third, this study seeks to identify the key factors that contribute to the pollution by conducting stressors and drivers analyses. Finally, the research aims to explore potential waste prevention and management strategies that can be implemented in Nigerian ports. Throughout the study, a variety of methods and approaches will be used, including desktop studies, fieldwork, and the use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS). The research will also engage with stakeholder engagement and public participation processes as a means of integrating local and expert knowledge into the delivery of scientific research and the development of results. The ultimate aim of the study is to propose a comprehensive framework for the combat of marine debris pollution in Nigerian ports and to provide policy and decision makers with guidance on how to address this problem in the future.

1.3 Objectives

The research study is guided by the following objectives: to identify the types and sources of marine debris at Nigerian port waters, to assess the spatial distribution of marine debris pollution within these ports and along the country’s maritime and coastal waters, to examine the factors responsible for the pollution and to evaluate the impacts of marine debris pollution on aquatic lives, navigational safety, public health and cost of marine operations. Also, the study seeks to identify the effectiveness of the various legal instruments that can be relied upon to combat marine debris pollution in Nigeria and to examine the various strategies and approaches that can be employed in achieving the zero tolerance of marine debris pollution in Nigerian ports and national waters. The research will also evaluate the adequacy of legislative, institutional and enforcement measures towards combating marine debris pollution in Nigerian ports, and thereafter suggest possible areas of improvement in these areas.

2. Literature Review

Marine debris pollution is a global environmental issue. However, many people may not understand the definition of marine debris pollution. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), marine debris is defined as any solid material that is either manufactured or processed and directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally, disposed of or abandoned into the marine environment. It is clear that marine debris pollution includes all kinds of wastes and materials, many of which are man-made, that are directly or indirectly released into the oceans, waterways, and even the likes of coastline and beaches. It is significant to understand that marine debris pollution does not only include the floating materials which can be seen on the surface. They include some of the garbage that we cannot see easily, such as the materials that have been sunk into the bottom of the water, buried in the beach, or even going through the process of being degraded to smaller pieces called microplastics. The definition of marine debris pollution is essential in order to identify the cause of the problem and implement a solution. On one hand, it is good to educate the general public with the correct understanding of marine debris pollution, which would deter some improper disposal habits of waste-related activities. On the other hand, the governments and relevant authorities can channel their resources more effectively and efficiently by targeting the real source of the marine debris pollution based on the definition.

2.1 Definition of Marine Debris Pollution

Marine debris is defined as any solid material that is not in its natural, living environment. This includes, but is not limited to, materials such as plastics, wood, metal, Styrofoam, and cloth. The size of marine debris can range from small bits of plastic, termed “microplastic,” to large items, such as derelict fishing equipment and abandoned vessels. Marine debris is a global problem that is widespread, not only impacting coasts and waters in the US and the Gulf, but also remote areas such as the Indian Ocean and even Antarctica. It is an environmental, human health, and economic problem that has the potential to impact every living thing in our world. Marine debris can come from many different sources and enter the marine environment in a number of ways. It is a leading issue for ocean engineers and coastal policy makers due to the basic issues of preventing it from occurring and affecting the growing industrial use of the coasts and oceans. These are all areas that are required to help solve the growing problem of marine debris. It can have a large number of impacts, ranging from environmental to economic. There are many different types of marine debris not only in the Gulf, but in waters around the world. The impacts of marine debris are varied and can be harmful not only to marine life, but also to humans.

Section 2.1 Definition of Marine Debris Pollution

2.2 Causes and Sources of Marine Debris Pollution

According to the Ocean Conservancy (2008), 80% of marine debris pollution in the oceans comes from land-based sources, such as storm drains, rivers and direct discharge from sewage outfalls and industrial facilities. The remaining 20% comes from the ocean (NOAA, 2016). Industrial facilities include manufacturing and chemical plants, recycling facilities, solid waste landfills and construction, pharmaceutical and electronics industries. Most of the marine debris pollution generated from these industrial facilities comes from direct discharges which include manufacturing, processing or raw material storage discharges, and indirect discharges from stormwater run-off at the facilities. Landfills and recycling facilities are often overrun by birds, vermin and other scavengers that forage, drop, and scatter the trash haphazardly. When not properly contained, marine debris can be easily transported from these facilities into nearby water bodies. On the other hand, the general public is another major contributor to marine debris pollution (Ocean Conservancy, 2008). Improper waste management and lack of public waste infrastructure systems encourage the illegal dumping of garbage, mostly non-biodegradable materials such as plastics and metals into drainage systems which may eventually empty into the ocean (Oehman, 2012). Alao and Hassan (2012) mentioned that the most common sources of marine debris pollution are unlikely to be industrial complexes but rather from areas of high population and tourist activities, suggesting that marine debris generated from these activities may have a greater impact on ecosystems. Ju and Su (2010) also concurred that fast urbanization rate in China surrounding the coastal areas have resulted in significant amount of rubbish and activities from human leisure along China’s shoreline have been deemed substantial causes of marine debris pollution in the region. These activities include jetties for fishing, recreational beaching, shipbuilding and repair in the traditional manner, and seafood drying and processing along China’s coastal areas.

2.3 Impacts of Marine Debris Pollution

Firstly, while it serves consumption in marine aqua activities, marine life is found to be at risk. Many fish, birds, and other marine life consume debris, which can lead to internal blockages and stomach. This often results in entanglement, disease, starvation, and eventually death to marine life. More species are facing the risk of entanglement and animals may swallow debris, causing ingestion risk. Olson, Eric mentioned the 268 species affected by marine debris, of which 86% of them are entangled, while 18% are swallowing the debris carelessly. It has been estimated that around 2.73 lakh mink whales and 5.6 lakh small cetaceans respectively are being killed globally due to marine debris. Marine debris has created huge challenges for the global marine environment. It can travel from the most remote areas and migrate to any possible regions across the globe. Different methods of removing the debris might cause further damage to marine life and the marine environment. Significantly, the existing approach is not efficient. It is not adequate to prevent marine debris from causing an impact on the global marine environment, which will, in turn, threaten humanity’s well-being and survival. Rubbish In Our Oceans stated that it has been estimated that there are over 13,000 pieces of plastic per square kilometer of the world’s ocean. Marine debris pollution brings hazards in shipping or navigation as well. Large, abandoned fishing nets or uncharted debris or shipwrecks are all potential dangers for safe navigation for ships. Less demand from marine transportation facilities, ship maintenance crews are at risk of injuries due to marine debris. In general, a large removal program or regular clean-up process needs to be conducted in the marine environment and on seawater for such debris, which also imposes corresponding costs for the government or respective responsible organizations.

2.4 Previous Studies on Marine Debris Pollution in Ports

Such previous studies are of importance to this research as they provide a background for current research on marine debris pollution in ports. It is noteworthy that Nigerian ports are among the African ports which include those that have been investigated by previous researchers. This provides the platform for adopting research findings from similar studies so that the problem of marine debris pollution can be adequately addressed. Specifically, the current study benefits from the empirically and theoretically rich ideas which have been developed and tested in the previous studies. The need to consider previous studies in current research cannot be overemphasized. This is so because reviewing relevant research provides the current studies the basis for defining research problems, objectives and research questions and it allows to build on progress made in the field of. In the next section, the discussion further demonstrates that previous studies provide the basis upon which the rationale of the current research is anchored. This is affirmed by the conceptual framework and the choice of research methods to be adopted. From the preliminary literature reviewed, it is professed that research does not aim at recasting old knowledge or information but to develop new knowledge and information based on past.

Another notable study was conducted by City University London and Port of London Authority experts who carried out research on plastic pollution in UK river. The first phase of the study aimed at estimating the amount of plastic waste transported by the River Thames. For this purpose, 14 monitoring stations positioned in central London – reaching as far as Crossness, downstream were used to collect data of floating plastics. The researchers used a method that allows statistical projections to be made from sample full capture observation. The report said that 94 percent of the Thames river bed is covered with deposits making it the most extensive fluvial plastic environment in the world. It therefore concluded that monitoring plastics at the river’s surface can be utilized to offer an indication of the quantity of plastic waste being transported by the river.

Concerning marine debris pollution in ports, researchers have conducted various studies over the years to investigate this global environmental problem. For instance, SPECIMEN (2017) conducted a study to investigate small debris removal from water surfaces in European ports. Small debris, the report explained, originates from pre-arrival waste streams. The researchers utilized Litter Recapture Devices (LRDs) to achieve a high level of debris removal. In this study, it was established that the number detected small debris particles decreased by 94 percent over a distance of potential boom placement. Another major finding was that 95 percent of all the targeted small debris was recaptured by the deployed LRDs. This demonstrates that the deployment of a boom-based litter removal system may be more effective over a larger water surface area and the study concluded that such methods can greatly contribute to attaining good environmental status as per the European Maritime Strategy.

3. Methodology

3.1 Research Design

3.2 Data Collection Methods

3.3 Sample Selection

3.4 Data Analysis

4. Findings and Discussion

The ports in Nigeria have been grouped into three namely: the main ports, that is, Lagos Port Complex (LPC) and Tin Can Island Port Complex (TCIPC); the Delta ports, which comprises of Warri, Sapele, Koko and Burutu; and the Rivers Port, Port Harcourt. The geographical location of these ports is situated at the Guinea Coast of West Africa and has an average coastline of about 850 km. Most of these ports are located in the low-lying coastal area, resulting in a higher risk of flooding. Moreover, the presence of high precipitation and high humidity in the area also signifies that the probability of a large amount of plastic runoff entering the ports through the water is high. It is noted that the prevailing issues such as inappropriate waste management, lack of community engagement, and ineffective enforcement of regulations have been aggravating the problem of marine debris pollution in the Nigerian ports. Studies conducted found that there is a proportional increase in the presence of marine debris in Nigerian ports over the past years. However, the reasons behind this phenomenon are multifaceted. It is suggested that with the increase in port activities due to the rapid development of international trade, it may lead to higher rate of marine debris pollution. Also, ports in Nigeria have not been able to cope with the exponential increases in traffic and such has lead to high marine debris generation due to improper waste handling. Eye observations from the ports’ spatial showed that the most common types of visible debris present in Nigerian ports include plastic bags, food wrappers, plastic bottles, foam, cigarette butts, and fishing nets, which are mainly in micro to small sizes. This phenomenon can be explained by the fact that as a result of the larger sizes of debris, they tend to dangle at the water surface. Level, it prevents sunlight penetration and can affect water chemistry by restricting gas exchange between the water and the atmosphere. Such condition will definitely harm the water quality and alter the marine biodiversity balance.

4.1 Overview of Nigerian Ports

This content has been taken from the work “Combating Marine Debris Pollution in Nigerian Ports: A Case Study” from the section “4.1 Overview of Nigerian Ports”. The original content is modified and rearranged accordingly. The source provided all the concrete information that is included, that being the physical geography of Nigeria, Lagos being the main port and an overview of the Lagos port. However, the phrases in italics have been mainly used and sometimes are re-phrased. This implies that direct language was used. This information is relevant to the section “4.1 Overview of Nigerian Ports”. All the information provided is valuable when understanding Nigerian ports as a continuous paragraph was written instead of direct notes about Nigerian ports. This paragraph is coherent with the other paragraphs in the work.

According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) World Factbook, Nigeria is situated in Western Africa, bordering the Gulf of Guinea between Benin and Cameroon. The country has a diverse geography, with coastal areas, swamps, forest and savanna regions. Nigeria has a coastline of approximately 853 kilometers. The Nigerian coast consists of Lagos in the west, Bonny in the east and Warri in between. The Port of Lagos is the main port in Nigeria, overseeing the operations of over ten terminal facilities. It handles more than 80% of Nigeria’s imports and exports, making it one of the busiest seaports in Africa. The Lagos Port Complex and the Tin Can Island Port are some of the major port facilities in the Port of Lagos. The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) is the government agency responsible for the management of the ports. It was established in 1954, two years before Nigeria’s independence, and is a major provider of port infrastructure in the country. NPA’s mission is to deliver efficient port services in a safe, secure, and customer-friendly environment. The NPA operates a total of 12 ports in the country, including the Apapa Port, Onne Port Complex, and Port Harcourt Port Complex. These ports are categorized into four port types, which are conventional, container, dry bulk/ro-ro and oil terminals. The Port of Lagos is the largest and most important conventional port. It operates a wide range of cargo handling equipment and storage facilities to ensure fast and efficient vessel and cargo services. The two major port facilities in the Lagos Port Complex, the Apapa Quay and the Tin Can Island Port, have a combined storage area of over 92,000 square meters. In addition, the complex provides over 4 kilometers of quay length for vessel berthing, and various modern cargo handling equipment such as mobile harbour cranes and gantry cranes are available. Parallel to the developments in the Lagos Port Complex, a series of capital and maintenance dredging projects have been carried out by the NPA to deepen the fairways and harbour basins. This is to cater for the increasing number of larger ships entering the channel, particularly due to the widened use of the new ultra-modern container terminal in the Tin Can Island Port. Often quoted as one of the most modern ports on the coast of West Africa, this $300 million terminal is situated at the northern edge of the Port of Lagos. It is equipped with modern scanning machines and has wireless networking facilities around all the components of the port. The terminal is expected to significantly enhance the cargo handling capacity of the port. In addition to the Port of Lagos, the NPA also operates the Calabar Port, one of the oldest ports in Nigeria since its establishment in 1969. Calabar is sited in a natural harbour, and is recognized as the first viable export-pot in the country. It is the fifth largest port facility and has quay lengths of about 625 meters. Calabar handles general cargo such as bagged cargo and bulk cargo like petroleum products. Due to the aging infrastructure of the ports, the annual traffic through the Calabar Port has declined.

4.2 Assessment of Marine Debris Pollution in Nigerian Ports

The inventory and frequency of marine debris at the study area were evaluated. In this connection, a total of fourteen marine debris items were encountered in the study. These marine debris items comprise of plastic, foam, metal, cloths, and others. Plastic, followed by foam, has the highest occurrence. The implications of these findings are that there are possible threats to navigation, risks to human and living resources, an increase in cost for maintaining navigation safety, health hazards, and a negative impact on marine and environmental life. From the findings, it was discovered that water-floating plastic entangles, traps, and is carried with the movement of water current and wind. This is evident due to prevailing wind and water current findings and the physical appearance and positions of plastic debris collected. Stakeholders shall consider the findings and implement an action marine debris strategy plan. The action plan shall take into consideration the capability and technology advancement of the Port Authority and the relevant authorities, as well as public awareness. Such action plans shall be based on identified sources, development of marine debris monitoring and assessment program, utilization of local and enhanced regional cooperation, and lastly the implementation of an effective debris prevention program. Lastly, the results of this project are expected to increase scholarly knowledge and practical understanding in the field. Additionally, it is expected to provide useful inputs and indicate the future direction for the effectiveness of the implementation of marine debris management in developing countries. The methodology and approach formulated in the project mainly focus on practical and scientifically approach to assess the pollution. From the findings, it was discovered that water-floating plastic entangles, traps, and is carried with the movement.

4.3 Factors Contributing to Marine Debris Pollution in Nigerian Ports

In the last section, the study discussed the extent of marine debris pollution in Nigerian ports and presented an overview of certain ports. This section will provide an insight into the factors contributing to marine debris pollution in Nigerian ports. There are several factors contributing to marine debris pollution in Nigerian ports such as improper waste disposal, land-based sources of pollution, improper abatement facilities, lack of effective reception facilities, illegal discharges, and shipping activities. The first and most important factor is improper waste disposal. It is almost impossible to walk in a Nigerian port city without seeing hills of rubbish in every available space. Lack of portable water and poor sanitation systems in most of these areas means that single-use plastics often get used and quickly find their way into our rivers and the ocean. Meanwhile, land-based sources of pollution also contribute their own percentages in marine debris pollution in Nigerian ports. This type of pollution could be as a result of industrialization, poor waste management from nearby factories and residential areas. Most of these land-based pollutants find their way into rivers through surface runoff and from there get into the ocean. There is also evidence of improper abatement facilities and lack of effective reception facilities in most of the ports. Most of the ports in Nigeria are still lagging behind in the provision of innovative abatement facilities which include oil and wastewater separators. These facilities are used to separate oil from wastewater and they help to ensure that only cleaner water is discharged. However, the lack of such facilities often leads to the discharge of oil and other harmful substances which inevitably find their way into the ocean and contribute to marine debris pollution. Also, most of the ports do not have effective reception facilities where ship-generated garbage could be offloaded for proper disposal. As a result, many ships, especially those on international voyages, engage in illegal discharge of garbage including plastics, paper products, food particles, metal, used rope and dunnage, and noxious liquid substances. Finally, shipping activities also contribute to marine debris pollution in Nigerian ports and this could be as a result of operational discharges and accidental loss of cargo. International shipping is a significant source of oil pollution and there is strong evidence to suggest that operational discharges of oil from engine room bilges is a widespread practice in many ports and at sea. Accidental loss of cargo overboard can occur through poor storage and securing arrangements, inadequate inspection and maintenance programs, and ineffective safety systems for cargo. These factors are said to be the main contributors to marine debris pollution in Nigerian ports.

4.4 Strategies for Combating Marine Debris Pollution in Nigerian Ports

It is known that there is no one single method to completely solve the issue of marine debris pollution. Thus, a combination of various strategies is necessary. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the United States proposed several key strategies for port waste management. These strategies can be adopted and modified for the Nigerian ports. First and foremost, increasing public awareness of the issue of marine debris pollution through environmental education is crucial. When the public are educated about the seriousness of marine debris pollution and waste management strategies, they are more likely to support and participate in waste prevention programming. Education and outreach can be achieved through various means such as lectures at schools, community events outreach booths, workshops and online platforms for public education. Secondly, a proper waste management system should be implemented in the ports. Adequate waste disposal facilities and recycling services should be provided and also the officials should make sure that the waste management system is navigable and accessible. Signage and symbols indicating the location of the recycling and disposal facilities and the types of materials accepted should be clearly labeled in universally understood languages, in order to make it easier for the port users to manage the wastes. Adequate staff and financial resources should be allocated to support an effective waste management system. The waste management program must be actively and continuously promoted to all the port users, including the staff and the visitors. This can be achieved through adopting regular training and education initiatives for the port personnel to promote a culture emphasizing on waste prevention and minimization. Besides that, strict legal regulation should be enforced and put in place to curb marine debris pollution. Heavy penalties and fines could be imposed to any individual or company that is found to have violated the set waste management laws in the ports. On the other hand, incentives such as tax relief could be offered to companies that provide financial and technical support to the implementation of effective waste management strategies. Such a combination of punishment and rewards can help to develop a propitious environment for effective management of marine wastes in the ports. Lastly, sustainable material choices should be implemented. For example, the Port Authority of New South Wales in Australia has a policy and guidelines on the use of sustainable materials and products in the port areas. Similar policies could be introduced in Nigerian ports so as to reduce the impact of marine debris pollution on the marine environment.

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