Detecting Oil Spills



EMSA, European Maritime Safety Agency




EU directive 2005/35/EC on ship-source pollution and the introduction of penalties for infringements

  • EMSA’s mission to develop technical solutions for discharges tracing by satellite monitoring and tracking


Near real-time detection of marine pollution

Our mission in CleanSeaNet

  • Processing & analyzing SAR images
  • Detect oil spills
  • Identify polluters from combining data types
  • Drift model to anticipate costal damage
  • Real time reports

Benefits for the end users

  • Reliable, fast and high quality information to help detect marine pollutions and prosecute polluters
  • Prompt follow-up actions
  • Decrease in the number of detected oil spills
  • Improvement in the marine environment

430 billion km² monitored by EMSA

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    Satellite evidence in UK Court

    February 25, 2012:

    9am – Off the coast of Cornwall, UK. EMSA detected possible spill using Envisat.February 25, 2012:

    10am – Combining our satellite images with AIS, the vessel was identified.

    11am – UK’s Maritime and Coast Guard contacted the vessel:

    • First, he denied the slick.
    • Then argued it was outside the UK’s 12 nautical mile limit, where certain discharges are permitted.

    February 26, 2012:

    Satellite evidence proved the slick was inside territorial waters, and so the discharge was illegal.

    October 4, 2013:

    At the trial, the vessel’s owner was found guilty. According to the Maritime and Coast Guard’s enforcement unit, the guilty verdict would not have happened without CLS’ satellite evidence.

    image Uk Court

    These images show, above, a satellite radar image with the location, of detected oil on the sea surface. The shape of the spill indicates a possible trailing slick of oily waste from an underway vessel. Hereunder, AIS vessel track information identifies the tanker