PORTUGAL, Lisbon: There are at least 500 new cases of maritime pollution in the EU, many of them thick crude oil, said a European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) spokesman.
EMSA coordinates satellite tracking of all shipping vessels which enter EU members states' territorial waters, taking near real-time images of oil slicks and catching the vessels responsible red-handed, according to EMSA Communications Advisor Andrea Tassoni. If a member state suspects a vessel of cleaning its engines at night or spilling oil into the sea, the Ports Authority calls up EMSA, which orders satellite images of the pollution and the vessel's position.
Around 2000 investigations are made each year, and 500 of them prove to be pollution. It is then up to the member states to prosecute the vessel.
Another part of EMSA's operation is to have a network of oil spill recovery vessels all around the EU which can quickly respond to large-scale pollution like the sinking of the Prestige in 2001.
With its headquarters located in Lisbon, EMSA coordinates with ports authorities all around the EU, including Cyprus - which also has an oil spill recovery vessel standing nearby.
And as oil exploration and exploitation increases in the Eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus will certainly have to plan for pollution disasters like the BP oil leak off the Louisiana coast. It will also have to make sure its legal infrastructure allows the prosecution and fining of polluters. In France, for example, fines for polluters average between 300,000 - 500,000 euros, and have been an effective deterrent, said Tassoni.
For more information, visit www.emsa-europa.eu
This is a special report from Portugal made possible by the European Journalism Centre.