Eye in the sky

Nowhere to run for MARPOL violators

Authored by: Wallem Group's newsletter True North, Winter 07-08

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One thing is for sure; sooner or later, we, or the authorities, will catch anyone who intentionally discharges oily residues or plastic waste directly into the sea. The same goes for people who think that they are so smart that they can falsify Oil Record Books or Garbage Logs and get away with it. We will find out and when we do, we will approach Flag State and National Authorities to ask them to revoke the Certificates of Competence of those involved. There is no reason to willfully pollute the seas and there is no reason to falsify records.

But just for those who think that in the dead of night nobody can see them pumping oil over the side, here is some information on Spy or Eye in the Sky technology which is increasingly being used to catch polluters.

A ten day sweep of the English Channel and North Sea caught five ships in the act of polluting, Belgian authorities reported. Six countries contributed seven aircraft to one of Europe's longest continuous joint anti-pollution exercises. Three of the unnamed vessels were detained in British waters, one in Dutch and one in Belgian waters after planes using infra-red and ultraviolet sensors honed in on the slicks they had left behind.

The planes, plus a standby fleet of seven ships used to collect samples, were using 'spy in the sky' satellite technology similar to the system now being rolled out across the EU under the CleanSeaNet brand. The satellites can feed data on suspected polluters to coastguard services within minutes.

The participants in the exercise were all signatories of the anti-pollution Bonn convention. It ran for almost ten times as long as previous exercises, and spotted a total of 45 slicks. Belgium, The Netherlands, Britain, France, Denmark and Germany all provided aircraft, while Sweden and Norway participated without planes.

Belgium and the other North Sea countries and the European Commission wanted to give a signal to the maritime world, that oil pollution in European waters is not tolerated and has to be stopped.

This is the bag of trick available to MARPOL crime busters...

Side Looking Airborne Radar (SLAR)
Detects dampening by wind and oil of capillary waves generated by the wind. During reconnaissance flights (from 1500 to 4000 feet) SLAR can detect oil 15 to 20 nm away, on either side of the plane, except in a "blind spot" directly below the plane, which is equal to the altitude of the plane. This gap can be covered by an infrared scanner.
Over 3 to 5 Ám
Infrared Line Scanner (IR)
Detects thermal radiation with a wavelength in the band of 8 to 12 Ám. Slicks appear black or white on the screen depending on their thickness and temperature.
Over 10 Ám
Ultra Violet Line Scanner (UV)
Detects the Ultraviolet component of light from the sun reflected by oily liquids. Cannot distinguish between thicknesses.
From 1 Ám
Microwave Radiometer
Similar to IR Line Scanner. Has the advantage of being able to measure the thickness, and therefore the volume of the slick detected.
Over 100 Ám

So you think this is only happening in Europe. Not so, many other countries are currently implementing this type of enforcement, check out Canada's website on the issue and tactics.

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