Ugandan waste management firm Epsilon has partnered with Danish giants Desmi to provide oil-spill response services to Uganda’s nascent oil sector.
Under the partnership, the company will provide modern equipment for environmental clean-ups in case of oil spills as well as specialised training to oil sector players.
Desmi comes with 40 years of experience in production of oil-spill waste management equipment while Epsilon is licensed by the National Environment Management Authority to transport, store and dispose of hazardous and non-hazardous waste.
Starting this month (October), Desmi will offer Epsilon equipment to do oil spill clean-up (both on water and on land), trained personnel and training services in oil spill response to meet inter- national standards.
Speaking at the launch of the partnership at the Danish ambassador’s residence in Kololo last week, Moses Kitaka, Epsilon’s technical director, equated this move to immunisation against an inevitable disease.
“In the oil industry, oil spill is not a matter of if, but a matter of when. So, this partnership is to ensure that we are ready when there is an oil spill to avoid scenarios that have been experienced elsewhere such as in the Niger Delta,” Kitaka said of what he called the first partnership in oil spill equipment provision that meets international standards.
With operations in Angola, Ghana, South Africa and Tanzania, Desmi boasts of a wide range of experience in providing equipment to manage oil spills.
“We believe that Africa is a growth area. I don’t think it is difficult to do business in Africa; you just have to do it with the right people and we believe Epsilon is the right group of people who have the technical know-how, expertise and integrity,” said Henrik Knudsen, the Desmi chief executive officer.
Meanwhile, Christine Guwatudde, the permanent secretary in the office of the prime minister, welcomed this “exciting partnership” but stressed the need for Desmi to invest more money in Uganda and promote local content.
However, Leslie Andrews, the managing director at Desmi, said they would consider this idea if it makes business sense. He noted that they would start with an assembling firm and later enter manufacturing, depending on the business environment. They also intend to establish a $4m air pollution (control) centre in the Albertine region.
This partnership puts Epsilon at the centre of handling oil spillages for oil companies as Uganda prepares for the production stage in the next three years. Licensed oil companies can now contract Epilson for emergency services in case of spillages.
According to Knudsen, they have a less-than-24-hour response timeline, which would greatly reduce the adverse effects of oil spillages.
In Nigeria last year, more than 40,000 civilians sued Shell, demanding action from the company to clean up oil spills. People from Ogale and Bille complained that decades of oil spills had contaminated the water and destroyed the lives of thousands of fishermen and farmers in the Niger River Delta, where a subsidiary of Shell has operated since the 1950s.
In a 2011 report, the United Nations said in at least 10 communities in Ogoniland, public health was “seriously threatened” by drinking water contaminated with hydrocarbons.
“We want to immunize against such cases. We want to create capacity where we have a response team that should not exceed 24 hours,” said Knudsen.