OilWatch unveiledNews // September 12, 2002
Within one to two hours after acquiring data of an incident, OilWatch delivers details via the Internet to the customer's desktop about the slick's location, its size and any marine vessels that may be involved. Armed with the OilWatch information, companies can either verify their activities or refine their monitoring activities and thereby increase the chances of catching and prosecuting an offender.
Oil slicks often go unnoticed and whereas shipping accidents make up only approximately 20 per cent of the total oil pollution at sea, illegal activities such as the discharge of bilge and ballast waters make up a far greater percentage.
Agencies charged with surveillance of national waters will benefit from OilWatch, claims QinetiQ. These can include coast guards, navy, pollution control authorities, environmental agencies or self-policing industrial consortia. OilWatch has already monitored the waters of the UK, France, Spain, Portugal and Italy in support of local pollution control authorities.
The OilWatch system uses satellite-based radar to detect ocean oil slicks. All of the OilWatch software tools use data from Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellites because of their capacity for wide area surveillance. SAR satellites also enable all-weather, round-the-clock operation and are unaffected by cloud or fog. Detailed imagery of the spillage can also be provided by the OilWatch system.The OilWatch service draws on many years of research and development in conjunction with satellite operators and receiving stations, such as QinetiQ's own ground station at West Freugh, Scotland.