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Satellite Monitoring of Oil Spills in the Mediterranean Sea for 1999-2004

Kostas Topouzelis(1), Oliver Muellenhoff(1) and Guido Ferraro(1)

(1) Joint Research Centre, Via Fermi 1, 21020, Italy

Abstract

Besides accidental pollution caused by ships in distress, different types of routine ship operations lead to deliberate discharges of oil in the sea. Operational discharges are the greatest source of marine pollution from ships, and the one which poses a long-term threat to the marine and coastal environment. Reliable monitoring methodologies and continuously updated comprehensive information are key elements to create effective contingency planning.

The present activities of the Joint Research Centre (JRC), in the field of monitoring sea-based oil pollution using space-borne radar imagery are described. A specific methodology for processing and interpreting a massive set of satellite images has been implemented. Such an approach allows performing a systematic mapping of the possible vessel discharges over all the European Seas.

These maps and the associated statistics are repeated on an annual basis in order to assess its evolution. In particular the results obtained for the period 1999-2004 for the Mediterranean Sea are presented. This analysis is of special interest due to the lack of a regular aerial surveillance as that in the North and Baltic Sea. This action helped to reveal what is the dimension of the oil pollution problem, thus stressing the need for more concerted international actions.

KEYWORDS: Maritime surveillance, oil spill, illicit discharges, SAR, monitoring, Mediterranean Sea

 

Workshop presentation

Keywords: ESA European Space Agency - Agence spatiale europeenne, observation de la terre, earth observation, satellite remote sensing, teledetection, geophysique, altimetrie, radar, chimique atmospherique, geophysics, altimetry, radar, atmospheric chemistry