Sea Technology

AUG 2012

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Graphical User Interface for Simulating and Analyzing Oil Spills Italian Coast Guard Uses GUI for Forecasting and Retroactively Investigating Pollution Releases in Bonifacio Strait By Alberto Ribotti Technologist Matteo Sinerchia Researcher and Roberto Sorgente Researcher Institute for Marine and Coastal Environment National Research Council - Oristano Oristano, Italy he Strait of Bonifacio is a narrow passage with a maximum depth of 100 meters between the islands of Corsica and Sardinia in the middle of the western Mediterranean Sea. On its eastern side, it is only 5 kilometers wide, with a maximum depth of 57 meters, due to the presence of tens of large and small islands and rocks. The strait and the surrounding coastal environment are characterized by often unpredictable weather and sea conditions. Northwesterly and northeasterly winds often blowing through the strait are amplified by a Venturi ef- fect, suddenly creating strong currents and high waves. Annual maritime traffic along the Gibraltar-Spain route to the major Italian ports (e.g., Livorno, La Spezia, Civitavecchia, Naples) is very high, with more than 3,500 vessels, mainly solid bulk cargo ships and roll-on-roll-off passenger ships of a gross tonnage between 500 and 25,000 tons. Traffic peaks at more than 5,000 leisure boats in the summer. In the Strait of Bonifacio, 28 maritime accidents involving cargo ships and smaller vessels were recorded by the Ital- ian Coast Guard in La Maddalena, an is- land east of the strait, between 1972 and 2010. These accidents have or could have caused marine pollution from boats releas- ing their load or bunkers, mainly due to human error, especially during adverse weather and in rough coastal morphology areas. For these reasons, in the last 20 years, a joint effort by Italy, France, the European Union and the International Maritime Or- ganization to protect this area resulted in T the institution of several national and international parks. In 2011, the strait was nominated as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA), the first in the Mediterranean and the second in the world as a strait. To provide the local Italian Coast Guard with oil spill man- agement tools for the Strait of Bonifacio, the Italian Ministry of Environment funded a project in 2009 named SOS-Bonifacio. One of the instruments developed during the project was a graphical user interface (GUI) that allows users to interact eas- ily with a complex operational hydrodynamic model based on local meteo-marine conditions for predicting the trajectory of an oil slick within the Bonifacio Strait. The GUI guides users through the creation of an emergency scenario, launch of a simulation and analysis of results via a series of panels. GUI Design Using complex numerical models to produce simulations often requires interaction with computer codes and high-level processes, which limits the simulations to users comfortable with moving through large blocks of commands. In contrast, the GUI was designed for users with basic computer skills in order to make the forecasting system universally operational and to facilitate the process of scenario building, simulation AUGUST 2012 / st 37

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