Spying Oil Spills from Space -AMSA

By MarEx 2013-05-21 09:17:00

Photo: Crude oil from the wrecked 146,000-ton tanker, Hebei Spirit, is seen polluting the sea off South Korea in this Envisat image, provided by the European Space Agency. The image was acquired on December 11, 2007, at 10:40 a.m., local time (01:40 UTC) by the Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR) aboard ESA’s Envisat satellite. [Source: http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/]

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is trialling the use of satellites to detect oil spills in Australian waters. Satellite-based Synthetic Aperture Radar (SSAR) can identify potential oil spills directly from orbit. These satellite sensors can monitor day and night, can see through cloud, rain, fog and other weather. It is one of the most effective and reliable ways of spotting oil spills and the ships that cause them.

AMSA’s Acting Marine Environment Division General Manager Jamie Storrie said AMSA currently relies on other vessels, airlines or the public to report any oil spill or marine pollution.

“By the time a spill is reported, the oil may have already spread to sensitive areas and the chances of catching the polluter are poor,” Mr Storrie said.

To minimise oil spill damage in the marine environment it is important to quickly find the spilled oil and remove it from the sea.

The satellite information is received by AMSA within 60 minutes and is essential to catch polluters redhanded.

The world-leading Norway-based company Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT) obtains and analyses the satellite data for AMSA, with a focus on areas of Australian waters considered to be at high risk of oil pollution due to heavy shipping movements or offshore oil and gas projects.

Mr Storrie said once this phase of the trial is completed, AMSA will assess the viability of implementing the system permanently in Australia, so that it will continue to act as a deterrent for would-be polluters.