Keeping watch

Published: Thursday 30 November 2000

A "spy in the sky" satellite is being tested by coastguards in Canada in an attempt to catch ships illegally discharging oil into the North Sea. The satellite, called Radarsat, is part of an eight-month trial ordered by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. It is hoped that the satellite, which can detect slicks using radar even on cloudy days, will give agency staff a faster way of homing in on polluting vessels.

At present they rely on spotter planes. The trials come in the wake of a report on the northeast Atlantic by the Oslo Paris Commission which said that too many ships in the region were continuing to flout the laws by cleaning out tanks and discharging oily water into the sea. "This is resulting in the oiling of seabirds, shellfish, other organisms and the coastline. Pollution from such activities remains at an unacceptably high level," the report says.

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