Every spill is different and yet appraising a situation always requires rapid acquisition of the most reliable information possible.
The Sea Empress was no exception to this paradox but when our engineers had to leave urgently for Milford Haven and during the response itself, Cedre documentation unit was approached on many occasions for resident and non resident data.
Upon receiving the alert, the following were required urgently:
- French marine charts from the Navy’s Hydrographic and Oceanographic Office (EPSHOM) in Brest
- English marine charts which we secured from Nautique Service in Le Havre to supplement those from EPSHOM
- Instructions to mariners (south coast: we had the most recent version) that provide valuable information on geography, meteorology (winds) and oceanography (tides, currents, sea state and temperature).
As soon as this information had been secured we turned to querying other data bases and data banks via the ESA-IRS server:
- AFP-EXTEL News, a news agency that provides a complete news coverage of late breaking news in France and the United Kingdom
- Lloyd’s list, a data bank that provides Lloyd’s list information on line, specialised in vessels and shipping
- ASFA (Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries Abstracts) sent us document references on coastal sensitivity, fauna and flora existing in the area and fishing grounds. We placed orders for articles that we did not have and received them promptly by fax in addition to other documents received also by fax
- Pollution, a data base which when queried was a useful supplement to the information from ASFA. Article references provided on previous oil spills in Wales and on the effects of oil on the local fauna and flora.
Later on the data were systematically analysed to supplement what we had already read in local newspapers in Brittany and South West Wales:
- local French newspapers: Ouest France and Le Télégramme
- local Welsh newspapers : particularly the Western Mail (6 month subscription)
- specialised weeklies: Oil Spill Intelligence Report, Golob’s Oil Pollution Bulletin (both are from the USA), Le Marin, Cols Bleus (French Navy publication)…
Subsequently, much more information became available on this spill from the University of Swansea’s School of Biological Sciences website.