Development of a conceptual model for a marine oil spills management system in South Africa
Sabela-Rikhotso, Phindile Tiyiselani Zanele
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The impacts of oil pollution incidents on a pristine marine environment threaten the biodiversity of the affected ecosystem and exert pressure on the socio-economics of the concerned region. These pressures, nevertheless, offers an opportunity for advancing resilient development. An innovative approach that is prominently developing in the oil sector is promoting the Incident Management System (IMS), also known as Incident Command System (ICS). This system is expected to improve marine oil spill response readiness mainly. The “all-hazard” approach form of ICS for incident response has been adopted in South Africa. Concerns have, however, emerged on the value of the system on the overall incident and disaster risk management, which is beyond the response operations. Regrettably, the current literature on ICS conceptualisation and implementation is predominantly informed and aligned to emergency response. This form of conceptualisation does not sufficiently apprehend the root causes, drivers, opportunities and challenges surrounding the adoption of ICS within the principles of the disaster management continuum. The system's mechanistic and hierarchical decision-making benefits are the main point of contention between the ICS proponents and opponents. Decision making appears to be conceptualised on the premise of a highly bureaucratic temporary structure adopted during emergency response operations. Interference from politicians and highranking bureaucrats with limited consideration to efforts invested during the preparedness stages of incident management thrives. Subsequently, this limiting perspective has undermined commitment to the adoption and the potential benefits of ICS to a larger extent. Essentially, the inconstancies in embracing ICS may indicate a broader context of continuous relationship trait that affects decision-making than the literature reveal. Several conflicting theories supporting ICS were identified. While these theories hold some desirable aspects and features, not all these facets are relevant and rationale for all hazards in every context. Based on the identified gaps in the current knowledge, this study undertook an organizational theory approach to comprehend ICS implementation in the context of marine oil spills incidents. A conceptual model was created to investigate the processes needed to develop a comprehensive, sustainable Incident Management System (IMS) in South Africa. In this process, the organisational theory was applied for the analytical evaluation of the rationality behind the system's theoretical foundations and practical applications. Based on these theoretical paradigms, exploratorysequential mixed method research of data collection was adopted, whereby both qualitative and quantitative data were collected chronologically. Initially, themes were developed from the qualitative data, followed by a subsequent investigation of these identified themes through quantitative data collection. The qualitative phase allowed for a non-linear but purposive research path that embraced an understanding of respondents’ values, behaviours, assumptions and beliefs. These were subsequently triangulated with quantitative data to provide a perspective that informed the conceptual model's development. A total of 121 individuals and 32 organisations participated in either the qualitative or quantitative study phase. Five key questions addressed the key research problem through four research articles developed during this study. In article 1, the question intended to establish the oil spill risk management profile of South Africa whereby three elements that require attention were identified. Firstly, the existing legislative arrangements mandating the oil spill management function was found to be fragmented, highlighting a need for integrated policy reform. Secondly, stakeholders involved in ex-ante and expost activities have limited technical capacity in oil spills risk management, signifying the need for structured training and exercise inputs. Lastly, the complexity of the current financial arrangements creates a gap that undermines resilience, calling for the adoption of budgetary re-allocation and alternative forms of funding. This study was unique in its methodology and approach to oil spill risk management. Previous studies have explored scientific variables to be considered for preventing oil spills. While there has been a generic focus on marine legislation, studies focusing on institutional and governance principles for managing oil spill risk have been lacking, particularly in South Africa. Subsequently, article 2 pursued to understand the legal framework governing oil spill management in South Africa. A content analysis of international conventions and the national policy and legislative documents relating to marine oil spills was conducted. In this regard, three international conventions, two marine civil liability laws, seven environmental and conservation management laws for marine pollution, and two disaster risk management policies and legislative frameworks were analysed. The findings of this paper demonstrate that South African marine pollution management is on a reasonable development path. However, invariably, challenges in terms of enforcement capacity, complicated and ineffective provisions continue. This study thus called for an institutional and legislative reform that will embrace integrated management strategies, clearer provisions of legal powers, and strict enforcement of existing laws. Understanding the South African marine oil spill legal framework in Article 2 led to the need to investigate and identify practices that enhance a coordination process for an effective management of oil spill pollution, which was carried out in article 3 through the grounded theory approach. The empirical evidence included observations of meetings and oil spill exercises held to support the coordination process employed in instituting a National Incident Management System for the marine oil spill in South Africa. This was followed by 54 individual open questionnaires for data triangulation and validation. Analysis of developing an Incident Management System process revealed that when designing a novel long-term project which is reliant on a shared vision from multiple organisations, enhanced coordination and collaboration for successful implementation is dependent on the following practices: (i) political commitment, (ii) bridging knowledge gaps and (iii) sharing of resources. Subsequently, Article 4 focused on presenting a conceptual model for marine oil spills in South Africa. The article drew from the three previous articles and empirical data. In developing the proposed conceptual model, challenges aligned with reactive response efforts' traditional environmental disaster management efforts were considered. The model demonstrates an integrative coordination continuum with a stringent focus on coherent multi stakeholders’ incident management collaborations. The model is valuable because it focuses beyond the traditional emergency response tool but is fundamental in effecting adherence to reporting lines, performance standards and information integration. Additionally, the model reconciles oil spill risk minimisation policies to the inter and intra-organisational planning and preparedness processes. The model has been designed to mainstream the organisational views that perceive disaster management and offshorerelated activities as unfunded mandates, especially where response operation and sustainable rehabilitation programmes are concerned. In applying the Incident Command System and the organisation theory, this study provides numerous contributions to the literature. Initially, the thesis contributes to the literature of incident command system-risk management-marine oil spill management relationship. Literature that focuses on these three concepts concurrently is limited regardless of its dominance in general emergency and crisis response. The research study provides a perspective that mainstreams inter and intra-organisational planning, preparedness and response to marine pollution and oil spill risk. Research in oil spill risk management is predominantly considered within environmental sciences, yet this study was tackled within the disaster management lens within the South African context. The thesis thus contributes to environmental management and the ICS literature, focusing on the disaster management continuum. Furthermore, there are limited empirical informed studies that focus on the value of ICS theory for the pre-disaster, specifically the preparedness phase, hence, this thesis and precisely the reason for developing the proposed conceptual model. In sum, such a holistic approach to the Incident Management System further contribute to the preparedness needs for managing the overall risk of marine oil spills.