The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) has been given a Multi-annual Funding envelope for its 'anti-pollution' activities. One of the conditions for receiving this is that the Agency submits a report to the Commission and the Administrative Board, by 31 January each year, concerning the financial execution of the detailed plan (comprising separate Action Plans) for the Agency's pollution preparedness and response activities and gives an update of the status of all actions funded under that plan.

The activities of the Agency in the field of marine pollution preparedness and response are focused on providing operational assistance and information to Member States. The main service pillars are:

  • The Network of Stand-by Oil Spill Response Vessels distributed along the European coastline
  • CleanSeaNet: the satellite based oil spill and vessel detection and monitoring service
  • The MAR-ICE (Marine-Intervention in Chemical Emergencies) Information Service in case of chemical spills at sea
  • Cooperation and coordination with the EU Commission, EU Member States, EFTA/EEA Coastal Countries, Candidate Countries, Acceding Countries, Regional Agreements and other relevant international organisations such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO);
  • The provision of information through publications and workshops.

Network of Stand-by Oil Spill Response Vessels

At the end of 2013 EMSA maintained contracts for 18 fully equipped Stand-by Oil Spill Response Vessels available, upon request, to assist coastal States in oil spill recovery operations.

Two fully equipped vessels for the Atlantic Coast, one for the Western Mediterranean and a vessel for the Aegean Sea operating for EMSA under contracts, will expire at the beginning of 2014. The vessels for the Atlantic Coast and Aegean Sea have been re-contracted .

Two additional contracted vessels are currently in the Preparatory Phase and are expected to be operational also by mid-2014. This will ensure, at the end of 2014, a total number of fully equipped vessels of 18. The average storage capacity for recovered oil of the EMSA contracted vessels is 3,650 m3.

The current Network provides at-sea oil recovery services from vessels based in all the regional seas of Europe. It should be noted that all vessels are at the disposal of all Member States regardless of their actual area of operation. The map below shows the distribution of vessels and equipment stockpiles around Europe. More technical and operational specifications of all the contracted services are available on


The EMSA Network of Stand-by Oil Spill Response Vessels and Member States vessel at the end of 2013



In order to maintain the appropriate level of readiness during the Stand-by Phase of the contracts, the companies and vessels concerned carry out different types of activities. The primary activity is the vessel/crew drills, which take place on a quarterly basis. Each drill verifies that the capability of the vessel and specialised equipment, and the skill of the crew, is at an appropriate level.

These drills are primarily an internal event between the Agency and contractors, however Member State representatives and journalists have taken part in drills and the Agency encourages such participation.

In 2013, a total of 63 Quarterly Drills were performed by the vessels under contract to the Agency. Additionally, six Acceptance Drills related to entrance of new contracted vessels in service and/or improvement projects were conducted. The Acceptance Drills are of particular importance as they are the major milestone for new vessels to enter into the Stand-by Phase of a contract.


Number of drills per year


Response to Marine Pollution from Oil and Gas Installations

In order to effectively carry out the new task of responding to marine pollution caused by oil and gas installations, EMSA drafted an Action Plan to establish the framework for its pollution response activities in the context of the amended Regulation and in line with its technical and operational capabilities and resources, in the same vein as the Action Plan for Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response and the Hazardous and Noxious Substances (HNS) Action Plan.

CleanSeaNet Satellite Service for Oil Spill Monitoring

CleanSeaNet, the European satellite based oil spill monitoring and vessel detection service, was launched in 2007. The service was set up to support Member States' actions to combat deliberate or accidental pollution in the marine environment in the framework of Directive 2005/35/EC (amended by Directive 2009/123/EC) "on ship-source pollution and on the introduction of penalties, including criminal penalties, for pollution offences" and in particular Article 1016.

The service is available to 27 coastal States, including all European Union coastal States, as well as Turkey, Iceland, Norway and Montenegro. Users have access to the CleanSeaNet service via a web portal hosted at EMSA. The service is based on the near real time17 analysis of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite images for oil pollution and vessel detection.

The acquisition and analysis of satellite images is contracted to four European companies, which deliver the images and the results of the analysis to EMSA. As soon as these are received, the CleanSeaNet data centre automatically generates alerts which are sent to authorities in the coastal States. The alert report contains all the necessary information for coastal States to instigate follow-up (e.g. sending aerial surveillance to confirm possible spills reported, requesting inspection of suspected vessel in the next port of call).

Related products (images, oil and vessel detection information, etc.) are immediately made available through the portal. In cases of accidental pollution, coastal States can request support from the service in the form of additional images and monitoring of major spills over time.


CleanSeaNet 2013: map of possible spills detected


Satellite images should always be combined with supporting information when prosecuting a maritime pollution case, but the images themselves may be admitted as primary evidence.

On 25 February 2012, EMSA detected a possible pollution 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.


Read more details at EMSA's Report (click at image below)




The European Maritime Safety Agency is one ofthe European Union's decentralised agencies. Based in Lisbon, the Agency provides technical,operational and scientific assistance to theEuropean Commission and Member States inthe fields of maritime safety, maritime security,prevention of, and response to, pollution caused by ships as well as response to marinepollution caused by oil and gas installations.The Agency also contributes to the overallefficiency of maritime traffic and maritime transport.


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