The PRESTIGE case has put in evidence, among other things, the lack of tools, systems and methodologies for the prompt intervention on the ship wrecks in order to confine the pollution and, successively, eliminate the source of the pollution threat. The scope of this proposal is the study, design (including costing, planning, deployment procedures etc.) and validation of an EU reference method for the prompt and cost-effective intervention and remediation of tanker wrecks dealing with eventual leaks and recuperating the fuel trapped in their tanks even at considerable depths. The proposed method will be of general applicability as long the trapped pollutant does not dissolve and is of lower density than sea water.
The proposed solution relies on gravity forces to channel the flux of spilt fuel towards the surface. However, instead of channeling the flux directly to the surface, where the recovery operation would be greatly affected by adverse weather conditions, the flux of fuel-water mix is channeled to a buffer reservoir/separator some 30-50m below the sea surface so as not to be affected by rough weather. This is achieved by means of a light, quickly deployable flexible structure that should stay in place until all the tanks of the wreck are emptied and the pollution threat eliminated. The buffer reservoir, into which the spilt fuel is channeled, is provided with standard equipment through which shuttle vessels, weather permitting, can recuperate the fuel rapidly, using standard off-shore loading equipment and procedures.
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