Tuesday 2 October: A crude oil tanker BLACK GOLD suffered a blackout early this
morning while making a pilot station at 35º 52’ N, 014º 50’ E (12.58 n.miles East
of Zonqor Point). A fully loaded 100,000 tonne container vessel bound for the
Marsaxlokk container terminal, rams the tanker on her starboard side at a speed
of around 16 knots. Two tanks are damaged in black gold, spilling oil at sea. An
oil spill emergency response is triggered by Transport Malta, calling all the
national response actors to intervene. A strong easterly wind is driving the
spill fast towards Malta.
The team of the Physical Oceanography Research Group (PO.Res.Grp) come in support
with oil spill bulletins to aid the response by predictions on the fate of the
spill and the expected beaching of the oil.
Luckily this was only an unreal scenario, being part of the MALTEX 2018 national
oil pollution response simulation exercise organised by Transport Malta in
collaboration with EMSA (European Maritime Safety Agency). The exercise served to
showcase the support that the PO.Res.Grp offers to oil spill response with HF radar
observations and numerical models.
The exercise was supported by the CALYPSO South project which targets to establish
best practices, and to test the deployment of additional technological assistance
by drones and Lagrangian drifters.
Prof. Aldo Drago, leader of the CALYPSO South project partially funded by the
Italia-Malta programme 2016-2020, explained the role of the PO.Res.Grp in the
national oil spill response team at a project progress meeting held in Malta on
the occasion of MALTEX 2018. Prof. Drago highlighted how 'the long stretch of
research projects in the last 25 years of activity have permitted the PO.Res.Grp
(ex Physical Oceanography Unit) to build its reputation among the local stakeholders
as a provider of specialised services in operational meteo-marine observations and
The CALYPSO South project will invest 1.5 million Euro to deliver an extension of
the current CALYPSO HF radar cluster from four to seven units leading to an extended
spatial coverage including the southern approaches to the Maltese Islands, and is
committed to improve the quality and consistency in space and time of the data flows
to the many users already relying on the system.
Additional numerical models are already being developed to forecast hydrodynamical
fields and waves with high resolution with a reach in the Maltese and Sicilian
coastal areas. This will impact the services offered to national stakeholders like
Transport Malta, Civil Protection Department and Armed Forces of Malta locally,
especially for oil spill response and for search and rescue operations.
A project meeting was held concurrently, which served to bring Sicilian stakeholders
in direct contact with the Maltese counterparts in order to plan trans-boundary
cooperation and activities.