Brittany-based "Centre of Documentation, Research and Experimentation on Accidental Water Pollution" (CEDRE) and Galicia's "Institute for Maritime Technology" (INTECMAR) will work together to improve response capability to oil spills and black tides.
Working together to prevent and respond to oil spills
On 13 November 2002, the 'Prestige', a Bahamas-registered, 26-year-old single-hull tanker owned by a Liberian company and carrying 77,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil, sprang a leak off the coast of Galicia. It eventually broke apart on 19 November and sank 270 km off the Galician coast, devastating the local fishing industry, and covering hundreds of beaches with oil.
As soon as the accident was announced, on November the 13th, Brittany-based Centre of Documentation, Research and Experimentation on Accidental Water Pollution (CEDRE) activated its response centre, assessing risks, preparing location and oil drift forecast charts, attending daily meetings with the French command centre and dispatching daily situation reports to the authorities in France and Spain. Experts were sent to Galicia on November the 16th, where they stayed until the end of December 2002. The 'Prestige' crisis tightened the bonds between Breton researchers and Galician authorities.
On 2 February 2005 a Galician government delegation visited the CEDRE headquarters in Brest, Brittany, to agree on a protocol of cooperation for the prevention and control of oil pollution.
As a result of the two-day-long visit to the leading Breton institute, Galician Fisheries Minister Mr Enrique López-Veiga and CEDRE director Mr Michel Girin agreed that Bretons and Galicians should work together to improve response capability to oil spills and black tides.
The Cooperation Protocol sets the foundation to develop coordinated research and staff training development between Brittany's CEDRE and the Galician Institute for Maritime Technology INTECMAR. Following that agreement, Galician researchers will receive comprehensive training in Brittany and will have access to CEDRE's research laboratories. Breton and Galician researchers will also work together on a number of joint projects carried out by CEDRE and INTECMAR, which include the development of coordinated inter-agency responses in the case of an oil spill. CEDRE director Mr Michel Girin highlighted the importance for Brittany and Galicia "to be punctually informed of any eventual oil spill".
Galician Fisheries Minister Mr Enrique López-Veiga was highly satisfied with the outcome of the agreement: "INTECMAR and CEDRE are two complementary institutes. The Bretons have done a lot of research on the chemical and physical action of hydrocarbons and we have done ourselves a lot of research on the effect of hydrocarbons on animal species. We have both identified many areas where we can work together and benefit out of it. Brittany and Galicia are facing very similar challenges in maritime security. There is a lot of work to be done and we are going to get on with it".
CEDRE - Training, Information, Research, Development & Pollution Monitoring
The Centre of Documentation, Research and Experimentation on Accidental Water Pollution was created in 1978 as a result of many measures taken after the wreckage of the oil tanker 'Amoco Cadiz' off the coast of Brittany. The CEDRE was conceived to improve preparedness against accidental water pollution on both marine and inland waters. The centre is responsible for documentation, research and experimentation on pollutants, their effects, and the means of response to control them.
CEDRE's world renowned Breton headquarters is especially equipped to train response personnel for accidental pollution on the shoreline and in ports. The centre has a round the clock 24h advisory service to provide emergency response to any accidental water pollution with information on the pollutants, their behaviour, the related risks, the best applicable response methods and technique, the products and equipment to use, and data operational management.
Scottish student remembers 'Prestige' oil clean-up
Scottish student Gavin Humphreys was on an Erasmus year at the University of Santiago de Compostela in November 2002 when the oil tanker Prestige broke up off the coast of Galicia, eventually spilling more than 50,000 tons of oil into the sea. Pollution spread across Galicia and further along the Portuguese and French coasts, devastating the local fishing industry and covering hundreds of beaches with oil.
Mr Humphreys, from near Dingwall in Ross-shire, said that he remembered hearing about the worse than usual weather on the radio at the time: "I tried to find out how to volunteer to help and managed to pick up that there was a meeting the next day in front of the cathedral, where a bus would take us to the coast. When we arrived we were supplied with wellies, waterproofs, gloves, face-mask and goggles, and my bus, the first of the three, went off to a beautiful, wee cove beach. We started at the water and worked our way up, gathering the oil and putting it into plastic buckets using our gloves".
At the end of the day the volunteers washed down their boots, put on their shoes and headed back to the small farming township to get their bus. Mr Humphreys said the next day went along the same lines: "The use of a vehicle made the job of taking the tar up the hill a lot simpler and we cleared 16 tonnes of oil. By the end of the day the beach was officially uncontaminated, although it still looked pretty bad at the top, the theory being that it would probably do more harm than good to pull it off with all the vegetation".
"It was horrible, dirty and heavy work and I suppose the number of volunteers may have waned over the weeks and months but I'm glad I did my bit".
Submitted by Lena Ferreiro | March 2005