A few years ago, clean, pollution-free seas and oceans seemed utopian. Dumping litter and chemicals in unlimited quantities became common practice, until the United Nations warned of the consequences. They announced that by 2050 there would be more plastic than fish in the ocean unless we stop using single-use items for bags and bottles. However, plastics are not the only threat to the sea we face at the moment.
There is another fairly common enemy that also has a very negative impact on the health of the sea. We are talking about hydrocarbon pollution caused by tank washing, bilge water spills and other oily waste that, according to Oceana, pose a danger at least three times greater than that represented by oil slicks caused by tanker accidents.
Garau Ingenieros and Astilleros de Mallorca’s new initiative
Controlling this type of pollution is a challenge. And we are very proud to be able to announce that, since last July, Garau Ingenieros, a company formed by a group of Mallorcan engineers, has been working at Astilleros de Mallorca, in the Port of Palma, precisely to be able to detect this contamination quickly. It does so by means of a computer system designed by them and a pioneer in the world that interprets the degree and type of surface contamination after introducing images of the sea surface by means of an energy self-sufficient marine contamination control camera. The images are taken every 15 minutes in order to keep track of the spills at all times and make it easier to find out the origin of the pollution.
Artificial Intelligence as a protagonist
To develop this spill detection project, christened Spillcontrol, Garau Ingenieros uses Artificial Intelligence (AI): an algorithm is responsible for analysing the images and sending a warning if it detects the presence of spills, so that the impact of pollution can be reduced. They also have a “history” where the most frequent spills are specified in order to be able to act effectively to prevent them and better document their possible origin.
As for where to install the cameras, the idea is to do so in the vicinity of port service stations, where there are often small unintentional spills that can occur during refuelling. They also monitor possible discharges or inadequate cleaning of bilges from some ships. And another point where these cameras could foreseeably be installed are the mouths of torrents, where plastics, oils, detergents and other objects sometimes accumulate and are collected by the rains to be returned to the sea.
A promising future for Spillcontrol
This technological solution represents a revolution in the fight against pollution that will improve the quality of port waters and care for the marine environment in general. A great step forward for the preservation of the environment that sustains us that would not have been possible without the experts of Garau Ingenieros. Those responsible for the environment at Astilleros de Mallorca believe that the data provided by the system will allow, over time, to know the pollution cycle in the port, determining at what time and on what days most discharges occur, also finding out the influence of winds or currents, events or works, reducing the cleaning work.