MDA to Develop Monitoring Plan to Track Illegal Discharges of Oil from Vessels

by | Apr 9, 2013

Richmond, B.C., April 8, 2013”MDA's Information Systems group announced today that it has signed a contract valued at US$1.7 million with the U.S. National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), headquartered in Washington, DC.  NFWF is working to protect delicate ecological environments by funding a satellite monitoring pilot program designed to detect illegal discharges of oil from vessels operating in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and to reduce the number of those incidents.

The United States’ EEZ is the largest in the world, spanning three oceans, the Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea, and routinely has thousands of vessels traversing its area. With remote locations that are difficult to access, massive areas to monitor, and thousands of vessels to screen, deterring the illegal dumping of oil by boats at sea is a significant challenge. To help solve this problem, NFWF has partnered with MDA to develop a comprehensive satellite-based solution for marine environmental monitoring.

Building on extensive global experience providing ship and oil detection, MDA's RADARSAT-based wide area monitoring solutions form the core of the initiative and are ideally suited for this type of program. To complement the RADARSAT-based solutions, MDA has assembled Automatic Identification System (AIS), Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and optical satellite sensors from the leading geospatial providers to deliver a versatile solution for maritime domain awareness.

The monies for the monitoring program originated from community service funds directed to NFWF pursuant to a sentence issued in the successful prosecution of an environmental crimes case involving the illegal dumping of oil from vessels, the bypassing of onboard pollution prevention equipment, and improper oil recordkeeping.  Over the course of the 18-month program, MDA and NFWF, in consultation with the U.S. Coast Guard, will coordinate to develop a detailed monitoring plan.  In executing this plan, MDA will identify possible oil pollution sources. Trained analysts will review the satellite-based information and produce a report with the analysis of location, timing, amount, and source (naturally occurring seep vs. vessel-sourced oil).

When man-made spills are identified, MDA's maritime domain awareness solutions help authorities identify the source of the spill and the responsible operator. For vessels that are caught illegally polluting, the U.S. government can impose significant fines that will act as a deterrent. From the information generated by this program, monitoring baselines will be developed for future programs that are designed to help promote environmental compliance within the U.S. EEZ and to prevent these environmental crimes from recu


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