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IRA-MAR, 2022

Strengthening cooperation in the response to pollution at sea and chemical risks in ports







€622,951 of which €500,000 (European Union/DG-ECHO)

European Union (DG-ECHO)



SGMer (France)

Agence Nationale de Protection de l’Environnement - ANPE (Tunisia)

Cedre (France)

Direccao General Da Autoridade Maritima (Portugal)

ISPRA (Italy)

Ministerio de Transportes, Movilidad y Agenda Urbana (Spain)

Ministère de la Transition Énergétique et du Développement Durable (Morocco)

Stichting Sea Alarm (Belgium)

Transport Malta (Malta)

Objectives and expected results: An integrated approach to response resources at sea, on the coast and in ports.

Experience shows that in terms of civil protection, cross-border cooperation contributes to more effective prevention and preparation for disasters related to pollution risks.

Moreover, pollution response preparedness must, by its very nature, be constantly adapted to the evolution of threats and response techniques, taking into account the organizations involved. This is the purpose of the IRA-MAR project "Improving the Integrated Response to pollution Accident at sea & chemical risk in port", which aims to support the countries bordering the western Mediterranean basin and the Atlantic (Spain, France, Italy, Malta, Morocco, Portugal and Tunisia) in order to improve preparedness and response to pollution risks (including risks related to the traffic of hazardous and noxious substances in ports) through an integrated approach to response capabilities at sea, on the coast and in ports.

Learning from previous accidents:

Indeed, ports are the entry and exit points of chemicals, which are handled there but also of gas carriers and are particularly exposed to chemical risks including chemical clouds, as demonstrated by the accident in the port of Beirut where 2 explosions occurred in 2020. Although it did not produce any marine pollution, the second explosion, of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a shed in the port area, caused considerable human and material damage not only among the ships anchored in the port or offshore but also throughout the city of Beirut.


Continuity of the WESTMoPoCo project: capitalizing on established regional cooperation

The project is a continuation of a previous WESTMoPoCo project (Western Mediterranean Region Marine Oil and HNS Pollution Cooperation) which aimed to support cooperation between the beneficiary countries in the field of preparedness and response to marine pollution by oil and hazardous and noxious substances (HNS), leading to the development of the HNS Response Manual which brings together operational recommendations on the preparedness and response phases in the event of a pollution incident at sea involving HNS.   


The main work areas of the project:

In addition to the coordination and communication mission entrusted to the SGMer, the project includes 4 work areas:

The IRA-MAR project contributes :

- The WestMED Initiative and whose countries have committed to work together to strengthen maritime safety and the fight against marine pollution (priority 1 of the roadmap);

- The action plan published by EMSA in 2007, for the preparation and response to potentially harmful and dangerous substances;

- The updating of all the national emergency measures of the beneficiary countries (revision of the POLMAR instruction in France).


Latest news

The use of drones* has enormous potential in improving the response to an environmental emergency at sea. It can:

· Improve response capacity to marine pollution incidents standardizing UASs based surveys.

· Facilitate inspection of remote areas, reducing risks of exposure to pollutants.

· Give instructions to create georeferenced thematic cartography to be used by authorities.

· Develop synergies and exchange of information between maritime authorities and civil protection for the use of UAS in coastal areas.

· Facilitate the taking of evidence in case of illegal dumping, making available photographic and video evidence.

· Notify, inform and reassure the public on the development of an emergency response, enabling better communication.


Its technology has been rapidly developing over the last decade, with enormous potential to revolutionize the maritime emergency interventions by providing a more efficient, fast, safe, and cost-effective way to carry out various field activities.



Publication of the Technical Guide for the effective use of drone technology in maritime emergencies



The aim of this technical guide is to gather information and knowledge on the more advanced techniques and technologies, and related gaps, in the use of drones in marine environmental emergencies. It is dedicated to authorities appointed in National Contingency Plan (NCP) to coordinate survey of areas affected by a maritime pollutant spill following an environmental emergency as well as any other authorities and experts involved in maritime emergency response. 


The Guide presents the state of the art of the main technological aspects of this useful and promising technology, covered in specific sessions on types of drones, sensors and data processing. It also presents the main results of recent and on-going projects on this topic, as well as the aspects to be considered in the different scenarios for the effective use of drone technology in maritime emergencies.    


Building on this technical guide and field trials planned in the upcoming months, a matrix of terms of reference corresponding to a diversity of uses of drones in coastal areas will be drawn up, in particular for the attention of civil protection services.


* Drones are also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) or Unmanned Aerial System (UAS).


Online surveys:

In order to properly conduct their analyses of the emergency response systems in ports, the leads of work packages have prepared 3 surveys:


Preparedness and response to accidental pollution: this survey (organised by Cedre, Arnaud Guéna) is addressed to port authorities (and is being circulated via national authorities exercising supervision over ports). The objective is to gain insight of spill preparedness and response arrangements in ports, and to identify interesting experiences to share but also improvement opportunities which could be developed in future projects. Please note that Arnaud Guena, from Cedre, is particularly interested in the contribution of port authorities of the countries members of HELCOM.

Survey report now available:


Marine emergency preparedness: this second survey (organised by Sea Alarm) is addressed to national authorities and will gather information on what maritime and ports/harbours authorities identify as challenges for marine emergency preparedness. This survey will support a study on the collaboration of multiple authorities, experts and hands-on resources in case of fuel oil or HNS spills.
The survey is available in  English and French.


The usage of drones in emergency response scenarios (organised by ISPRA): this third survey targets institutions having teams specialized in the use of drones in environmental emergencies in their organization (European Civil Protection Services, Maritime authorities, Port authorities and private entities as oil and gas companies and contractors operating offshore).
The survey is available in English and French.



IRA-MAR project conference in Marseille
The beneficiary countries and partners of the European IRA-MAR project  gathered together at the project’s closing event, on 24 and 25 January, at the Port of Marseille, to present their work and recommendations aimed at improving and providing an integrated response to pollution accidents at sea and chemical risks in ports. The project's final conference, held on the morning of the 24th, was attended by over 50 participants from maritime and port authorities as well as civil protection authorities from 10 countries. The afternoon was devoted to a workshop led by Cedre on pollution in ports, during which the findings of the survey completed by 85 ports were outlined and a presentation summarising the spill response organisation in the ports of Marseille, Tangiers and Malta was given. The presentations were followed by discussions on best practice and areas for improvement in spill response preparedness in ports. On the 25th, to conclude the event, an emergency response demonstration (combining a clean-up operation, a drone flight and a chemical analysis) was given by the Marseille Naval Fire Battalion, under the auspices of the Harbour master's office and the port safety authority. 

The project's recommendations and deliverables, as well as the conference presentations, will soon be available here.



For more information, please contact Julie Rigaud, project coordinator:

Last update on 12/02/2024
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