CleanSeaNet is a European satellite-based oil spill and vessel detection service. It offers assistance in identifying and tracing oil pollution on the sea surface, monitoring accidental pollution during emergencies and contributing to the identification of polluters.
The service has just received European Union funding of 160.5 million EUR ($200m) to continue to December 31, 2020.
Radar satellite images that cover all European sea areas are analyzed for possible oil spills on the sea surface. The images can be available within 30 minutes of the satellite passing overhead. Approximately 2,000 images are ordered and analyzed each year.
Vessel detection is also available through the CleanSeaNet service by correlating the satellite data with vessel traffic reports from SafeSeaNet. This increases the likelihood that a state will be able to determine which vessel is polluting and take action (e.g. verifying the spill, inspecting the vessel on entry into port).
CleanSeaNet warns that satellite images should always be combined with supporting information when prosecuting a case, but the images themselves may be admitted as primary evidence in a maritime pollution prosecution.
The service has let to successful prosecutions. For example, on February 25, 2012 a possible pollution case was detected on a satellite image of the waters off the coast of Cornwall, UK. By combining the satellite image with AIS vessel track information from SafeSeaNet, the vessel was identified as the tanker Maersk Kiera, registered to Singapore Private Ltd.
The vessel initially denied the discharge which consisted of palm oil and tank cleaning solution. Later, it was claimed that the discharge was outside the 12 nautical mile limit and therefore legal. The satellite information showed that to be false, and the owner of the vessel was found guilty of pollution charges. The investigating officer of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency's enforcement unit said it wouldn't have been able to lead the prosecution if it was not for the satellite evidence.