Researchers at the IMEDEA (CSIC-UIB) participate in a European project for the control and response to maritime accidents in the Mediterranean Sea

  • The TOSCA project was created to improve quality, speed and efficiency in decision-making in case of accidents in the Mediterranean sea related to contamination by oil spill or the search and rescue operations (SAR)

  • Researchers at IMEDEA (CSIC-UIB) develop surface drifters and oceanographic models in order to monitoring the Mediterranean Sea

Mallorca, 10th April 2012. Accidental oil spills are one of the most serious threats for marine ecosystems. The growing importance of the Mediterranean ports, coupled with the high density of the maritime traffic, increases constantly the risk of more serious incidents. «The risks and damage caused by maritime accidents can be reduced with the help of improved forecasting and efficient control systems», says Alexandre Orfila, researcher and coordinator of the TOSCA project at the IMEDEA (CSIC-UIB).

The MED Programme project, which brings together 13 partners from four countries of eastern and western of the Mediterranean sea, has been designed to help to create an improved response to maritime accidents. In its initial phase, the project will help to set up a sustainable network between local authorities, policy makers and scientists. In this project they are developing techniques for predicting the evolution of potential spills and innovative performance solutions available based on operational systems. Also create tools to support decision making and action plans of the authorities to ensure a better response in case of maritime accidents.

The Mediterranean Institute of Advanced Research (CSIC-UIB) and the Marine Science Institute  (CSIC) are the two Spanish institutes working in this innovative project. Scientist at the Department of Marine Technologies, Operational Oceanography and Sustainability at the IMEDEA, led by Dr. Alexandre Orfila, work to develop a predictive tool for controlling oil spills and search and sea rescue operations (SAR). This research group has extensive experience in the scientific study of spill control –IMEDEA collaborated actively in the scientific management of the Spanish Prestige disaster- so the Balearic team will launch an operational observing system to assist in this type of operations in the Western Mediterranean (Balearic Sea).

The system will be installed and evaluated at five test sites in areas of coastal oil spills (eastern Mediterranean) and in high traffic areas (western Mediterranean). Using the latest technology, it will provide more accurate monitoring of oil spills and forecast its trajectory.

The project will operate a geographic information system (GIS) with a multiplatform support tool for decision-making which is easy to use. This system will help in making decisions to improve the response by autohorities in case of marine accidents. The system uses a lagrangian interactive module that will be displayed at the territorial level in the last phase of the project.

The project affects a wide range of professionals involved in operational, strategic and scientific issues to ensure an effective response in case of maritime accidents. Local authorities and public agencies responsible for emergency plans in case of maritime accidents will be the first beneficiaries of the project results through the creation of a tool to support common decisions (an interactive web based on geographical information system –GIS-) which will provide important information and, also, the methodology to help them to prepare the response to a maritime accident. It will also benefit politicians involved in environmental and maritime safety and the scientific community working on projects and oceanographic research.

Citizens will also benefit from the results and achievements of the TOSCA project through improved preservation of the marine and coastal environment and the efficiency in search and rescue operations.

The MED program: Mediterranean collaboration

The MED program is a cooperation European program integrated in the Territorial Cooperation Objective of the Cohesion Policy of the European Union. The TOSCA project consortium comprises thirteen partners from four Mediterranean countries: France, Italy, Greece and Spain. The project is managed by the cluster of companies PACA Marine & Business Innovation – Toulon Var Technologies (PMP-TVT) and is scientifically coordinated by the Mediterranean Institute of Oceanography (MIO) at the University of Toulon (France).

This alliance brings together local authorities and internationally recognized laboratories and combines expertise in marine forecasting systems and experience in emergency response and action plans.

The Mediterranean is an area with significant oil tankers traffic that enables access to southern Europe, northern Africa, Middle East and the Black Sea. In addition, a large number of posts related to oil (oil terminals, refineries, offshore platforms, etc…) are concentrated in coastal areas. The activities of tourist interest in many areas of the Mediterranean coast, such as the Balearic Islands, are based on the quality of its waters. That is the reason why the Government of the Balearic Islands and the Center for Documentation, Research and Experimentation on Accidental Water Pollution (France) have joined the consortium as associated members.