Title: Marine Polluter Indentification: Backtracking with the Aid of Satellite Imaging
Citation: FRESENIUS ENVIRONMENTAL BULLETIN vol. 19 no. 10b 2010 p. 2426-2432
Publication Year: 2010
JRC N°: JRC52631
ISSN: 1018-4619
URI: http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/handle/JRC52631
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: International shipping is the lifeblood of the global economy and according to International Shipping Chamber statistics, about 90% of world trade is carried by this means. Without shipping, the import and export of affordable food and goods would not be possible ¿ half the world would starve and the other half would freeze. On the other hand, ships at sea are still subject to the forces of nature and human error. Despite the fact that shipping is economic, safe and the most environmentally friendly way to transport goods, sometimes we are still confronted with shipping accidents resulting in loss of human lives or severe environmental damage. Luckily, large accidental pollution incidents are now rare. Significant reduction has been achieved through successful prevention programs, mainly those introduced by the International Maritime Organization. Operational pollution, however, is still rampant across the world, and has a severe impact on the Mediterranean. The European Maritime Safety Agency recently ¿ in April 2007 ¿ established a marine oil pollution monitoring service called CleanSeaNet (CSN), an oil slick detection system based on satellite sourced Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) images. The service is intended to support the response chain of Member States (it is offered to authorities in all EU and EFTA states). SAR images collected by CSN during 2008 confirm that oil is still illicitly pumped out across all European seas. This paper discusses polluter identification beginning with the analysis of SAR images considering that the ideal case, in which a freshly released slick is detected, is rare. Usually the acquired image shows a slick that is already weathered, with the slick foot print already distorted by currents and wind, while at the same time either no ships or too many are in the vicinity. If the AIS information is available and shipping data is retrievable, in most cases the operator still faces the problem that a group of ships have passed through the designated area; or, alternatively, the slick is outside AIS range, effectively preventing the possibility of identification. Another problem related to polluter tracking is ancillary data utilization. Highly accurate wind and currents data are necessary for successful backtracking of the slick towards the origin of the spill and to likely polluters. A case analysis will be used to help illustrate this complex process of backtracking after receiving the SAR image.
JRC Directorate:Space, Security and Migration

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