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Monitoring the Effectiveness of Response Operations During the Sea Empress Incident: a Key Component of the Successful Counter-pollution Response
TIM LUNEL,* RICHARD SWANNELL,* JAN RUSIN,* PETER WOOD,* NICK BAILEY,* CHRIS HALLIWELL,* LOUISE DAVIES,* MATTHEW SOMMERVILLE,* ALLAN DOBIE,* DAVIDMITCHELL,* MADELEINE MCDONAGH* & KENNETH LEE? *AEA Technology, National Environmental Technology Centre, Culham, Abingdon, Oxfordshire OX14 3DB, U.K. (Tel: 00 44 1235 463083; Fax: 00 44 1235 463040; E-mail: Tim.Lunel@aeat.co.uk) TMaurice Lamontagne Institute, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, PO Box 1000, Mont-Joli, Quebec G5H 324, Canada
This note describes elements of the counter-pollutionresponse to the 72,000 t (19 million gallons) of Forties Blend and 370 t of Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) spilt during the Sea Empress incident in Milford Haven (U.K.). It does not address issues concerned with either the circumstances surrounding the grounding or the subsequent salvage operation as these are being considered elsewhere. The response has been co-ordinated by the Marine Pollution Control Unit ofthe U.K. Department of Transport (MPCU) and the Joint Response Centre (JRC), involving local authorities, other regulatory bodies and the oil industry. Quantification of the effectiveness of the response operations has been obtained through a monitoring programme commissioned by MPCU and carried out by the National Environmental Technology Centre (NETCEN) of AEA Technology. In the past, researchersand responders have suggested that a monitoring programme could not be mobilised for the initial stages of
a response. MPCU’ early mobilisation of a monitors ing team has set a precedent in demonstrating the use of scientific measurements made in real time at an incident to guide a successful response to oil spilt at sea. We estimate that the successful dispersant operation at the Sea Empressincident prevented 57,000110,000 t of emulsion impacting the South Wales coastline. Had the volume of oil beaching been around 130,000 t, rather than the 10,000-l 5,000 t that actually came ashore, then the impact on sea birds, coastal waders, intertidal invertebrates and amenity areas would have been much greater. No significant effects to the marine environment have been attributed to thedispersed oil concentrations, which were observed to dilute rapidly to below 1 ppm. Therefore, the Sea Empress incident has demonstrated how a targeted dispersant response can provide a net environmental benefit in responding to an oil spill. 99
Details of the Incident
Thursday 15 February-initial grounding The Liberian registered Sea Empress, carrying a full cargo of Forties Blend crude oilgrounded at the entrance of Milford Haven at 2O:lO on 15 February (Fig. 1). The tanker was re-floated but had sustained damage and was listing. Oil was released and initial reports from the vessel put the size of the release at around 2000 t. MPCU activated the U.K. national contingency plan and immediately deployed surveillance aircraft to fly over the vessel to estimate the extent of the spill. SevenDC3 dispersant aircraft were loaded with dispersant and flown to the scene in readiness to begin spraying operations at first light, if required. Fri&y 16 February--st day of the response
The Oil Spill Information System (OSIS) model is used by MPCU as their operational response model. OSIS has been developed by AEA Technology (NETCEN) and British Maritime Technology (Leech & Walker, 1992).Model runs on the evening of 15 and early 16 February predicted that the oil released would move SE towards Linney Head and beach at this location under the prevailing westerly wind at 1820knots. As the spill was close to shore where local oceanographic features can have an important effect on the trajectory of the spill, it was important to obtain early confirmation of the slick trajectory using...
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