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Elimination Units of Marine Oil Pollution

The project addresses the concept of autonomous units (EU-MOPs) that are capable of fighting oil pollution at sea. Hence its end result will be the design of low-cost units that can be released at the spill area and confront oil mechanically. The entire spill can be covered using a number of these units.

Tags: Water


Oil pollution, arising either from marine accidents or from ship operations, is one of the major problems that threaten the equilibrium of the marine environment. The severity of the situation, for open and confined seas alike, has never been evaluated to its fullest extent, due to the lack of comprehensive data. Only estimates can be given on the quantity of oil that finally ends up in the sea from all possible sources (ships, fixed-shore installations, etc.). These estimates, although not particularly accurate and very dependent on the database employed, reveal the criticality of the problem at hand: 1.7 to 8.8 million tons per year, with an average of about 2.5 million tons per year being the most commonly accepted rate. This is the amount of oil that eventually reaches the sea. The issues of oil pollution and spill confrontation have attracted increasing research efforts over the past 25-30 years. The preservation of the marine environment is of extreme importance and therefore all possible dangers/problems that threaten it must be dealt with determination and efficiency. In the post- Prestige era, it is now time for a completely new and multidisciplinary concept for handling oil spillage in European waters to be developed. This will yield environmental benefits, an impulse to the respective industry and it will result in an exportable product for marine oil spill confrontation.


There is an existing and direct need for a continuous renovation of the relative anti-pollution methodologies and equipment, always striving to minimise or eliminate the adverse effects an oil spill has on the environment. Such a goal must be incorporated in all hierarchical levels, at the same time taking all necessary legislative and surveillance measures to prevent the emergence of oil spills in the first place. However, it is an undisputed fact that as long as oil-carrying vessels sail the seas, tons of oil will eventually end up in the seawater. In effect, and taking into account the increase of oil-related traffic of recent years, efficient operational techniques that allow for the control and the elimination of observed oil spills are imperative. In this context, the research objectives of the EU-MOP project are to establish:

  1. innovative technologies in oil spill management
  2. pioneering devices/units for oil spill response
  3. an integrated framework for oil spill management
  4. an advanced structure for the dissemination of oil pollution response policies. Moreover, validation, proof of concept and virtual (simulation) experiments are included in the project.

EU-MOP catamaran unit - large model
EU-MOP catamaran unit - large model

Description of work

The work focuses on the design of the unit, the artificial intelligence platform, the oil-processing scheme, on cost-benefit analysis and on response logistics at both strategic and tactical levels. Thus the project is formulating an advanced approach for spill management issues, including mobilisation, application tactics, strategic management, logistics, etc. Emphasis will also be given on the logistics and support chain of the EU-MOP concept and operation: the implemented logistics and the corresponding techniques will be properly assessed in terms of efficiency, functional facilitation and continuous service enhancement. Some of the technological challenges involved in the project's work plan and selected points from its technical annex are:

  1. energy source and propulsion
  2. sensors, electronics and artificial intelligence
  3. vessel design
  4. robotics
  5. oil processing.
According to the above description of work, the introduced research activities will be multidisciplinary and encompass areas of particular technological innovation. Furthermore, the study of the EU-MOP system level (the emergency response management component) will acquire a realistic structure and consequently provide for the best possible protection of the marine and coastal environment.


There are a number of elements/outputs concerning the EU-MOP project that makes it particularly appealing to the maritime industry in terms of efficiency, quality and environmental friendliness concerning the marine and littoral environment. Hence the EU-MOP units will be designed so as to provide an efficient, cost-effective and manageable technique to combat oil spillage at sea. There will be no side effects, no dangerous materials onboard and no possibility of any harmful action. The EU-MOP project will come up with an advanced approach for spill management issues for both the strategic and tactical levels (e.g. confrontation, strategic survey, logistics, etc.). Thus it will present an integrated solution-chain concerning the overall framework for the mobilisation and application of anti-pollution means. In effect, the complete integrated system, including communication, logistical support, and response management will also be developed. The envisioned units will be designed and assessed (proof of concept) and assembled from inexpensive materials, and a range of such units will be selected so as to allow their use in various oil spill scenarios (a ‘one size fits all’ concept is inappropriate). This will make them, in the end, an appealing challenge for the industry, since they will be efficient, patentable and will allow for an adequate profit margin.

EU-MOP swarm operation
EU-MOP swarm operation