The Rationale

Short Sea Shipping is a central part of the logistics chain for transport in Europe, delivering nearly 40% of the total tonne-kilometres per year, only superseded by road transport with 44% (EC, 2006). Between 1995 and 2004 the transport in this sector increased by 32% across the EU-25 countries, and whilst an increase in sea transport can be seen as desirable from an economic point of view, it places a growing burden on the marine and coastal zone environment due to the risk of pollution.

Some ocean areas are particularly exposed. For example, in the Mediterranean Sea where the transport of oil is intense, since it provides the maritime way to Europe, for the oil produced in Middle East, Northern Africa and Caspian basins. According to the Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Centre for the Mediterranean Sea (REMPEC, 2002), 360-370 million tons of oil and refined products is transported annually through Mediterranean Sea, representing 20-25% of the world total. Maritime traffic in the Mediterranean is characterized by the existence of a large number of ports in the region (more than 300), and by a significant volume of traffic that transits the Mediterranean, without ships entering any of these ports. The East Mediterranean Sea is a high-risk area for pollution as the Black, Red and Mediterranean Seas are all interconnected.Due to very high marine traffic density, Mediterranean Sea is often quoted as one of the places in world with the highest risk of oil pollution. Transportation of large quantities of crude oil and refined products, narrow and congested straits through which ships enter and exit the Mediterranean, large number of ports, large number of islands especially in certain areas with high traffic density are increasing the risk of oil pollution in the region. Thus, decision-makers in this region have a strong need for an efficient pollution monitoring and forecasting system, to support them in planning and conducting preventive and emergency interventions. Such a system must provide timely and reliable access to all available observations and forecasts for the area of interest, and seamlessly integrate these as well as the software needed for analysis, decision-support and dissemination.

Recent events such as the Prestige and Erika tanker accidents have shown that there is also a strong need for improved pollution monitoring and forecasting in other European Seas. On average, about 60 maritime accidents occur per year, 15 of them involving ships  resulting in oil or chemical spills. The increase in transport of oil and other dangerous chemicals in Northern European and Arctic Ocean areas, such as the Barents Sea, further extend the demand for marine pollution detection services to support early warning and planning of mitigation actions to reduce the environmental impact.