An accidental spill of diesel fuel in the Ria Formosa estuary would have more disastrous consequences than if it had happened at sea, according to a recent pollution test study carried out at the commercial quay of Faro.
The sea traffic at the quay, located within the estuary, has increased due to the export growth of mainly cement to Africa and this increases the likelihood of a similar accident, stressed the anti-pollution Head of Service of the South Maritime Department.
“In inland waters, the impact is more significant than on the coast because it is a very environmentally sensitive area and human activities around the estuary also contribute to increase the risk,” said Commander Ferreira Cardoso.
The estuary is not only essential for the shellfish gatherers working there but also crucial for tourism, including hotels and restaurants, which would be affected by a possible ecological disaster in the area.
The two-hour study in the town’s commercial quay involved more than 60 people, mostly naval personnel and dock authorities with some collaboration from University of Algarve.
The scenario was based on an accidental spill of about 8,000 gallons of diesel fuel during the refuelling of a merchant vessel near the Ria Formosa estuary, one of the nation’s most important wetlands.
In order to prevent the spreading of imaginary waste, barriers were put in place to contain the spillage and two collecting points with a regenerator and a waste transfer system, which were channelled to storage tank afterwards, were installed.
The equipment was distributed among different maritime locations but the heaviest materials were stored in Portimão’s base. It was established that in a real scenario an accident in the Formosa estuary would take about three hours to solve.
According to Commander Ferreira Cardoso, the simulation enabled a test of the performance of the Maritime Department and Faro Port Authority. It was also a useful way to test the communication system of the Mobile Emergency Operations Centre of the National Authority for Civil Protection.
It also allowed the researchers of the Faculty of Marine Sciences and Environment, University of Algarve, to test the “ARGOMARINE” project by placing two buoys that will validate the results of a mathematical model, thereby predicting the drift of a hypothetical spill.
The simulation also included the participation of Faro Câmara, the management department forthe Ria Formosa estuary area, the South Institute Delegation for Ports and Maritime Transport, the Institute for Nature Conservation and Forestry and the National Authority for Civil Protection.