SPREEX Spill Response Experience was proposed as a coordination action in response to the EC DG Research call after the Prestige accident. On 13 November 2002 the Bahaman-flag tanker PRESTIGE ran into trouble during a storm 34 km off Cape Finisterre and began to leak its cargo of 77 000 tonnes of oil. After drifting for six days along the coast, the tanker broke in half about 225 kilometres offshore, having spilled about 11 000 tonnes of oil.
Several hundred kilometres of coastline were coated in oil sludge by the disaster, especially Galicia but also Asturias, Cantabria and Basque country in Spain as well as several departments in western France. The Prestige accident highlighted EU shortcomings with respect to technologies and in systems and resources for spill response effectiveness.
Objectives of SPREEX, based on existing experience for response to oil spills, were as follows:
- to identify research needs: this requires the identification of the main Oil Spill Response (OSR) key issues and expertise and collection of the relevant state of the art experiences and solutions on each issue;
- to create synergies with existing or on-going research projects included in different research programmes; and
- to generate synergies that may lead to new projects and partnerships between authorities and regulators, end users, universities and researchers.
Project partners identified twenty broad issues which were deemed more relevant for spill response preparedness and effectiveness based on past experiences prior to the Prestige spill.
The issues were developed from four main different themes, later named 'SPREEX pillars':
- the first pillar, organisation and communications, included operations, communications structure, training and legal aspects and places of refuge;
- the second pillar addressed response means technology, vessels, equipment and systems including wreck interventions;
- the third pillar addressed information and communication technologies, emphasizing the need for real time detection and tracking and decision support systems;
- finally, the fourth pillar addressed environmental and socio-economic aspects, with strong links to scientific approach for remediation, effects on the environment and economic aspects of impact assessment and NEBA (Net Environmental Benefit Analysis). Decision support systems were also assigned to this pillar.
Four major partner organisations (SASEMAR, CEDRE, SINTEF and DHI) were appointed as leaders of the four pillars, which were dealt with in separate work packages. Rapporteurs and 'Contributor' partners were designated to each issue selected. State of the Art reports including past experience and ongoing research were prepared and discussed first internally within the partnership, and later, during the mid-term workshop with end users, identifying from each State of the Art the main gaps and end user needs.
- A continuous dialogue between researchers and end users, as has been accomplished by SPREEX, is deemed necessary for optimum response preparedness. Through research, boosting the application of the existing technologies and leveraging new technologies and synergies, solutions to Gaps identified by spill response end users can be achieved.
Rationale: SPREEX's strategy of building the state of the art reports drawing on past experience, on-going measures and research results, prior to making statement on the Gaps and opening debates with end users and authorities have proven practical and useful. SPREEX was initiated in reaction to the Prestige accident and SPREEX observations on spill response preparedness should not be on stand-by until another big accident occurs. The end of SPREEX should not imply the end of this type of study. The forum of OSR stakeholders should continue to provide research guidance and elevate end users' expectances of better systems with improved performance and wider application.
- Spill response research cannot be justified by market pull and can only be effective in filling existing Gaps through the joint development of national and EU programmes such as 7FP.
Rationale: Spill response and systems and services supply are not part of a competitive business scenario, since administrations are the main and almost sole customers. Spill consequences may be catastrophic, but the cost of the response systems and their maintenance cannot be weighed against economy, nor can security preparedness. The responsibility of minimizing the consequences of spill accidents is the responsibility of local, regional and national administrations. Preparedness is structured on the contingency response plans using local resources proportionate to national resources and plans or perhaps even at a European level, depending on the accident's magnitude and potential impact. The research on spill response technologies and effectiveness is multidisciplinary and costs cannot be expected to be justified by patchy market demand.
- Spill response research needs to be based on past experience from previous accidents but must not be limited solely to the most recent scenarios and to the reaction to previous accidents: it must be proactive by anticipating the risks of new possible postulated accidents with short-term, medium-term and long-term perspectives.
Rationale: The transport of products by sea is constantly increasing in traffic volume, carrier tonnag
OSR Organisation, communications, places of refuge and legal issues - European oil spill response management for quick response action:
- crisis management (information & communication tools; training and use of simulators)
- places of refuge (risk assessments and decision support systems)
- legal issues
The major outcomes of this area are:
- Organisation and preparedness depends on local, national and regional circumstances and experiences which cannot easily be compared and homogenised; the organisation must be able to integrate EU resources in case of a major spill
- Communication is still to be improved and assured
- Training must be expended to all occasional OSR contributors and maintained; new technologies (simulators and e-training) may contribute but coordinated local exercises are also needed;
- European or international agreements are needed on OSR contracts, liabilities and responsibilities;
- Little progress has been made for the availability of ‘Places of refuges’, trans-national cooperation, technical solutions, impact and risk assessment, commonly accepted methodologies are still needed; local acceptance is a major issue.
Response at sea - Optimisation of resources for oil spill response at sea:
- recovery vessels and equipment,
- disposal of sunken wrecks
The major outcomes of this area are:
- Slow but steady improvement of OSR technologies, ships, equipment; on-surface and wreck operations are being treated by research and need further development.
- Insufficient assessments of performances of OSR systems; limitations in rough seas and strong currents.
- Experience needed on testing and data on spills from light pollutants, and on spills in special conditions, such ice or ice infested waters.
- Need of a SPREEX type ‘observatory’ to supplement and update SoA, and to identify Gaps and needs.
- Insufficient investment in ships, equipment and resources. Multipurpose ships and applications needed to justify cost and maintenance expenses. Increasing role of EMSA to link and foster EU OSR capacity.
- Use of dispersants needs very quick decision making and wide product knowledge. The behaviour of the dispersant depends on the application system; all need further testing and research and cooperation
ICT, Detection and Tracking<
See key results
Some of the SPREEX reported Gaps in synergies have already drawn the attention of the authorities and organisations such as the Clean Sea Net satellite data system recently introduced by EMSA and disclosed at the workshop conclusion. Technology integration and validation Gaps can only be solved by research. Spreex has found itself aligned with the EurOCEAN 2007 'Marine challenges: Coastline to Deep Sea' that took place after the workshop on 18/21 June 2007 with Commissioner Borg's special address acknowledging the importance of the contribution expected from research relating to the Green Book:
'Science is important in building the future Europe, as stated in the Green paper. Science can contribute to optimising the economic value of the marine/maritime cluster in a socially and economical sustainable way. A vision is urgently needed for marine related research in Europe leading to a strategy that derives even greater benefits from the RTD Framework Programmes and other sources of funding in Europe, avoids duplication, closes Gaps and creates synergies. The strategy should include mechanisms for optimising coordination, cooperation and dialogue between the Commission and policymakers, industry and scientific communities in member states and third countries. On the basis of input from the scientific and technical community, it should set out what is necessary to support strong and durable integration of activities among organisations carrying out research relating to the sea and maritime activities in Europe, and to provide for a stronger cross sectorial dialogue between scientific disciplines and technology developers, to provide input for a holistic approach to maritime policy'.
The SPREEX outcome on technology Gaps can be filled by focussed research projects (short-term from 1 to 3 years). The integration and validation Gaps may need other research instruments and can be supported by the preparedness exercises, and by the information from accidents and may require initiatives at an international or at least a European level. Some of the validation exercises should use real accident response data. Research has optimum conditions for achievement: a highly representative end users/researchers forum has been developed through the SPREEX project and the will to guide-and-work has been opened.