Where is the Oil: CMCC research supports the Civil Protection for the safety of the sea

Oil spill in blue water
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A Civil Protection exercise for a prompt intervention in the event of an oil spill in the sea and by the coast uses a CMCC forecasting service. The WITOIL application, the result of advanced applied research, is an example of how the sea forecasts produced by the Italian research center support the management of emergencies

The spillage of harmful substances represents one of the most serious dangers threatening the Adriatic Sea and in particular the Apulian coasts: it is capable of irreparably compromising the marine environment, coastal areas, protected areas of great naturalistic value and touristic activities.

In this context, the Italian Civil Protection Section of the Apulia Region organized an exercise on 5 May 2023 in Lesina Marina, Apulia, to deal with the risk of spills and stranding of hydrocarbons and other dangerous substances, linked to maritime traffic.

The “Oil Spill” exercise was carried out in collaboration with the National Civil Protection Department, the Prefecture of Foggia, and other local and national bodies, as part of the Interreg Italy-Croatia FIRESPILL project. It had a twofold objective: on the one hand, to test the validity of the intervention models at the provincial and municipal level, increasing the effectiveness of the response capacity of institutional and territorial operating structures, in the event of a hydrocarbon spill in sea and on the coasts; on the other hand, to develop a better response and a higher level of safety of emergency services, including in cross-border situations, and to improve prevention capacity in the event of natural or man-made disasters.

The exercise consisted in simulating the presence, about two miles off the coast of Lesina, of a ship with a hydrocarbon leak which is dispersed into the sea until it reaches the beach.

A fundamental component of the exercise was the use of WITOIL (Where Is The Oil), a service developed by CMCC together with Links S.p.A. to offer forecasts of actual or hypothetical oil spills in the Mediterranean Sea.

“The FIRESPILL exercise represents a great result because it demonstrates how the operational forecasts of Copernicus and those of the CMCC can support institutions to effectively face and react to marine pollution incidents,” commented Giovanni Coppini, of CMCC’s OPA (Ocean Predictions and Applications) division. “CMCC’s WITOIL system allows the Civil Protection and other users to simulate in real time what will be the dispersion and transformation of hydrocarbons at sea and to better plan containment and response actions. Moreover, in collaboration with the Civil Protection, we were able to release some drifters, which will verify the accuracy of our forecasts and provide modeling support during emergencies.”

“Oil spill is a complex risk scenario,” said the director of the Regional Civil Protection, Nicola Lopane. “The Apulia region, with its 850 kilometers of coastline, is one of the regions most exposed to these risks. Thanks to this Interreg Italy-Croatia project, Apulia was one of the first Italian regions to acquire specific equipment for this risk.”


Original press release by Regione Puglia (in Italian).

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