The Marine Institute at Oranmore Co. Galway will be hosting a major conference on 7th September this year to discuss the creation of co-ordinated marine pollution response strategies across Europe.
This conference, which is funded under the EU Interreg IVB Atlantique programme, is being held under the auspices of ARCOPOL (the Atlantic Regions’ Coastal Pollution Response) project in which the Institute is a participant.
ARCOPOL – a successor to the Emergency Response to coastal oil, Chemical and Inert Pollution from Shipping (EROCIPS) project - is a sustainable Atlantic network of experts supported by sufficient information, data exchange and management tools to advise on any spill of oil, hazardous and noxious substances (HNS) or even inert material. This new project will not only incorporate the outputs of previous projects into strategic, national, regional and even local response plans to deal with marine spills, but also improve response capabilities in the event of toxic and inert spills, improve the level of awareness and training of potential responders to incidents and increase the degree of stakeholder involvement.
Earlier this year, off the south-west coast of Cork, an estimated 522 tonnes of fuel oil were spilled into the sea during a refuelling operation on a Russian aircraft carrier. During this spill however, it was possible to accurately predict the likely spread of the oil using advanced computer models that use existing information on ocean currents, wave action, wind speed and direction as well as the physical properties of the oil as it disperses.
“Such tools are inevitably going to be of use again in the future,” said Marcel Cure, one of the Marine Institute’s marine computer modellers working on ARCOPOL, “since the vast bulk of the world’s oil and other chemicals is transported by sea, and the sea is one of the world’s harshest environments. We cannot completely prevent spills from happening. But we can predict what will happen when they do, and we can prepare for that eventuality with far better information at our disposal than even before.”
In 2007 EROCIPS produced its final report. This document, which had been produced by sixteen project partners from the UK, Spain, France and Portugal, contained information and guidance on a number of possible marine pollution scenarios and their associated pollution risks. It also contained a number of suggested clean up strategies, environmental protocols to determine the impact of incidents, information to managers and response-decision makers, training for workers and volunteers and critically, recommendations on regional modelling systems to help predict the movement of the pollution – be it oil or some other compound (see www.erocips.org)
According to the project organisers, “the EROCIPS project was the first time a transnational initiative focussed on the need for local and regional governments to pursue an integrated approach to emergency response for coastal pollution incidents.” EROCIPS provided a mechanism for the exchange of best practice and the development of practical solutions to local maritime pollution clean-up problems.
“An important aim of ARCOPOL is to further encourage cross-border collaboration between neighbouring countries in response to a spill,” said Michael Gilloly, Director of Ocean Science Services at the Marine Institute. “Marine pollution is a transnational issue. Even if a spill originates in international waters, sooner or later it is bound to affect the coastline of several member states.”
ARCOPOL will be developed by a consortium of partners from five countries in the Atlantic area and supported by an Advisory Body comprised of key authorities, experts and industry delegates, which includes the Irish Coast Guard. It will also seek the involvement of relevant stakeholders and organisations in the creation of a sustainable network of experts on spill and HNS response in the Atlantic Area.
“The sea knows no boundaries, and neither does a pollution incident,” said Chris Reynolds, Director of the Irish Coast Guard. “It makes sense for a project like this to enhance mutual assistance, cross-border training and to hold joint exercises in partner regions.”