Title: Monitoring oil polluting vessels through the integration of satellite technology
Publication Year: 2009
JRC N°: JRC55159
URI: http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/handle/JRC55159
Type: PhD Theses
Abstract: The main hypothesis of this study has been to demonstrate how satellite images can improve the long term monitoring and the response to oil pollution from vessels, with particular attention to operational oil discharges. To tackle this hypothesis, it has been necessary to apply a holistic approach to the problem of monitoring sea-based oil pollution. In particular, legal, scientific (remote sensing) and operational aspects related to this issue have been analyzed. It was innovative in my dissertation to have an approach which covers different fields, which allows also considering a secondary hypothesis on how space technology can support the prosecution of polluters. The verification of the hypothesis can be cross-checked with the recent launch of the Clean Sea Net service where the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) provides analyzed satellite images to European Countries (EMSA Clean Sea Net website). Before tackling the main issues, a brief analysis on ¿what is oil pollution?¿ has been introduced. The international legislation in the field of monitoring and response to marine oil pollution has been then analyzed. The main texts presented are MARPOL 73/78 Convention and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). To complete the international framework, and with specific reference for European Countries, also the recent European legislation has been presented. Special attention has been given to the prosecution of polluting vessels. The main legal problem is the coordination and integration of the two principles on jurisdiction which co-exist: the nationality of the ship and the geographical position of the ship. The research in the following chapters has been mainly based on the use of satellite imagery. The Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) on board satellites can be used to detect oil films on sea surfaces. To provide a general overview on the long term monitoring of oil spills in the European seas, I collected all the available information on detected oil spills in the European Seas for the period 2000-2004. Oil spills were detected by aerial surveillance (in the North Sea and in the Baltic Sea) and by satellite imagery (in the Mediterranean Sea and in the Black Sea). This collection of data, using an inductive method, allowed me to draw a general European picture of the problem of oil discharges from vessels. I have then tried to demonstrate how the use of satellite imagery from archives can be regarded as a key tool for measuring the state of European seas. Variations and trends can be considered essential for policy makers to assess the success of adopted legislation or to stimulate new actions to be taken. Having recognized the capacity and limits of the use of satellite imagery, I have introduced how images from space can be used operationally. The experience acquired during the project AESOP (AErial and Satellite surveillance of Operational Pollution in the Adriatic Sea) was presented. AESOP aimed to test in the Mediterranean basin the capability of providing satellite Near Real Time (NRT) information about marine oil pollution. Moreover the coupling of satellite imagery with the Automatic Information System (AIS) was also successfully performed. It must be underlined that the AESOP project in 2005 and 2006 was a vision of what after 2 years became an operational service. In fact, since April 2007, the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) has launched the Clean Sea Net service which provides analyzed satellite images to European Countries. To summarize the contribution to science of the work of the author has been to demonstrate how satellite imagery can be used as a tool to long term monitor operational oil pollution from ships. As a second contribution, the work of the author has been to demonstrate how satellite imagery can be used as an operational tool in support of patrolling activities of maritime authorities.
JRC Directorate:Space, Security and Migration

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