Amapetco for Oil development was preparing for piling operations for the new platform AMAL-C adjacent to AMAL-B, about 11.4 miles from El-Tor city located in the eastern side of Gulf of Suez, and about 35.6 miles from Ras Ghareb city, to facilitate maintenance, boat landings and provide a helideck for existing platform.
As a part of this project, Environics was commissioned by Amapetco to observe marine mammals from the barge (PMS-12) before, during and after the piling activities and to provide mitigation on potential impacts on marine mammals if present.
The main objectives of marine mammals’ observation were to:
Spot sensitive marine mammals species before and during the piling operations.
Mitigate impacts on marine mammals by monitoring the presence of these species from the barge and requesting shutdown of the hammer if necessary when marine mammals were seen within specified safety zones representing distances close enough to potentially cause physical injury.
The scope of work encompassed:
Observation based on a full view of the exclusion zone from both the master area and helideck on the barge PMS-12, height in these areas were 14 and 17 meters above the sea level to provide the largest visual scale.
Initial visual scanning with the naked eye was the main tool for the observation with occasional scans by using binoculars. The observation was only during the daylight.
Observations were conducted by 2 trained marine biologists (MMOs) prior to the piling operations and later during the pile driving activity by 1 MMO.
Four Marine Mammal Recording Forms were filled by MMOs using JNNC Forms including:
(1) Cover page with general information about the survey.
(2) Operations that contained details of the use of the source.
(3) Effort that included details of watches for marine mammals.
(4) Sightings that included details of sightings detections.
With slight modifications, the piling protocol by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNNC, 2010) was followed to mitigate potential underwater noise impacts arising from pile driving during construction.
Overall, a total of 202 hours and 30 minutes of visual monitoring was carried out.
Observation results were provided: Before & after piling operations as well as during piling operations.