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PAC:MAN - Pollution accidents in coastal areas: a Risk management system
Coordinator - Anabela Oliveira
CESAM Responsible researcher - João Miguel Dias
Programme - PTDC/AAC-AMB/113469/2009
Execution dates - 2011-03-01 - 2014-08-31 (42 Months)
Funding Entity - Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia
Funding for CESAM - 40872 €
Total Funding - 166512 €
Proponent Institution - Laboratório Nacional de Engenharia Civil (LNEC)
Participating Institutions
Universidade de Aveiro
Centro Interdisciplinar de Investigação Marinha e Ambiental (CIIMAR)


The frequent accidental oil and chemical spills in the last decades has raised a growing concern on the preparedness and response to spill-induced emergencies, to prevent their potentially devastating consequences on coastal environmental resources. This concern fuelled the implementation of several support tools, including pollution monitoring systems and modelling systems. However, in the event of a spill accident that affects coastal resources, each tool is mostly used in a disconnected, ad-hoc fashion, without compliance to the risk management cycle, and often not providing accurate predictions at the right scales due to computational constraints or unknown local conditions. Coastal pollution risk prevention is usually based on contingency plans, supported by studies mostly based on simplified tools, applied in simplified settings (e.g. neglecting wave-current interactions) and often disregarding local environmental conditions that may promote spill accidents. Even when early warning of pollution accidents is provided, alert to all relevant stakeholders is usually too slow to prevent long-lasting damage to the coastal ecosystems, as it relies mostly on outdated technologies.

Risk management systems, successfully applied for tsunamis and dam-break risks, can be used for pollution risks to provide an adequate framework for the effective protection of coastal resources. The information core of this system, which has been successfully applied to provide the identification of the human elements at risk and the resources available for their rescue, can be adapted for ecological elements and supply an identification of environmental losses. It can also integrate the wealth of data available on environmental and accident conditions, which are very importance for early-warning system

building. Recent developments on the efficiency of modelling systems for coastal problems using high-performance resources provides the potential for their application to pollution risk analysis, while the popularity of new communication technologies, theoretically proposed for issuing alerts has paved the way for timely alerts for pollution events.

The goals of PAC:MAN are thus to investigate: 1) past accident data to develop environmental indicators of spill-prone atmospheric and oceanographic conditions in the Iberian shelf and to validate them in a coastal system; 2) the usefulness of high-accuracy modelling systems for risk prevention and early-warning, including the relevant processes in a coastal oil spill; 3) the feasibility, advantages and scalability of an alert system based on recent communication technologies; 4) the usefulness of information technology systems to integrate and provide relevant environmental information on the ecological elements at risk, and 5) to assess how these innovative aspects can be integrated in a risk management early-warning and alert system for spill accidents in coastal regions.

First, the analysis of in-situ and remote data for past spill accidents on the Iberian shelf and coast support the development of indicators of environmental conditions propitious to spill accidents occurrences. These indicators will then be validated in the Aveiro lagoon, chosen for its environmental and economical importance. The validated indicators will then be used to set a scenarios database, which, using an ecologically-oriented vulnerability analysis of this coastal system, will be used to

investigate the usefulness of a high-accuracy oil spill modelling system [2], and to develop a new spill risk prevention methodology. The oil system simulates processes at the adequate scales, is coupled with a circulation modelling system forced by waves, tides and wind joint effects, and accounts for all major oil transformation processes, including coastal retention.

The new methodology will provide the basis for an innovative early-warning system that efficiently combines local, spill accident-prone, environmental conditions with detailed prediction of plume's pathways and transformation. The early-warning system will supply the alert content to feed in a prototype of an innovative alert system, based on SMS and MMS. This alert system will be analysed for efficiency and scalability for issuing alerts to increasingly larger groups of people, and to define the

optimal contents for maximum information within technology constrains. Both the early-warning and the alert systems will be linked through the risk management information technology system, to be adapted from a information system proposed do deal with oil spill accidents. This infrastructure will include a database of the elements at risk and emergency rescue resources and will be adapted to the Aveiro lagoon's environmental vulnerability. A new, generic methodology on spill emergency preparedness and response for coasts, based on the combination of the several innovative tools and approaches, will be proposed.

Members on this project

Research fellow
João Miguel Dias
Local Coordinator
Leandro Alves Vaz
Research Fellow

Research Fellow