Vigantism of ships, intensification of maritime traffic, drilling in increasingly deep waters, autonomous vessels: since the Amoco Cadiz disaster, maritime risks have evolved and constitute new challenges that must not be overlooked. – estimate, noted experts Friday.
"We will always have accidents at sea, we will always have boats that will sink and we may still have marine pollution", assured without detours the maritime prefect of the Atlantic, Admiral Emmanuel de Oliveira, during a day of exchanges at the Océanopolis marine center in Brest, organized on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the sinking of the supertanker.
The Liberian tanker was disemboweled on March 16, 1978, just two kilometers from the small Breton port of Portsall. Some 227,000 tons of crude oil had spread over 360 km of coastline, causing one of the worst oil spills in history.
"Never again will the state be as helpless as it was in 1978 ", however, pointed out Admiral de Oliveira, responsible for the action of the State at sea during this day that brought together nearly 200 experts from the maritime world.
Dedicated navigation channels, increased surveillance, evolution of the regulations and standards of shipbuilding … The disaster of the Amoco Cadiz has made France, but also the international community, aware of the risks of maritime transport. A whole series of measures to reduce them has since been put in place. However, the risks are changing and even tend to increase, experts said.
"We know new risks in maritime matters", assured the Secretary General of the Sea Vincent Bouvier.
"The risk profile, whether regional or international, is constantly evolving", said the Deputy Director of the Marine Environment Division of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Patricia Charlebois
"Increasing maritime traffic and changing traffic routes pose new threats and new challenges that should not be ignored or underlined. -estimate", she noted, also citing the increasing number of drilling activities taking place "in increasingly isolated areas and deeper and deeper waters".
– Increased traffic and gigantism –
Over the last 20 years, maritime traffic has roughly doubled in the Channel and, since the catastrophe of the Amoco, it has roughly tripled, noted Nicolas Le Bianic Chief Administrator, Maritime Affairs. "The exposure to risk has increased," he also argued. Some 60,000 ships sail on the seas of the globe, said Hervé Thomas, delegate general of the Armateurs de France organization.
Among the other threats, the gigantism of ships, both in terms of freight transport – with 400-meter-long vessels that can carry the equivalent of 97 km of containers put end to end (16,000 TEU) – that in terms of passenger ships – with liners capable of carrying more than 8,000 people–.
LNG-based vessels, which are becoming increasingly numerous because of global sulfur limits by 2020, also pose questions in terms of environmental risks. "These ships will carry extremely flammable high-pressure cryogenic fuels," said the head of the international organization.
Despite the extremely high safety standards surrounding these types of ships, "the consequences will also be extremely serious in case of failure, "she warned.
Then come autonomous ships, operated without permanent presence of personnel and commanded remotely, with risks of collision, cyberattacks or acts of piracy, she added.
"It is necessary that 'We remain vigilant and we continue to work, to adapt and organize, to modernize our means, especially in an international and European perspective,' assured the Secretary General of the Sea, saying dream on the scale of the European Union "of an integrated maritime surveillance system".