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In September 2005 the European Parliament and the Council adopted Directive 2005/35/EC (since amended by Directive 2009/123/EC) on ship-source pollution and on the introduction of penalties, including criminal penalties, for pollution offences. The Directive tasks EMSA to "work with the member states in developing technical solutions and providing technical assistance in actions such as tracing discharges by satellite monitoring and surveillance."

In early 2006, EMSA consulted industry and the national authorities in order to collect information on existing operational surveillance resources and further requirements for oil pollution monitoring. EMSA also obtained considerable feedback from other relevant organisations, such as the European Space Agency, all of which was used as input for the development of the CleanSeaNet service, which became operational in April 2007.

CleanSeaNet is now the most comprehensive oil spill monitoring and polluter identification service in Europe, and supplies over 2 000 satellite radar images a year to the 28 participating states including EU Member States and their overseas territories, candidate countries and EFTA Member States.

Surveillance for illegal discharges*

Number of satellite images provided:

  • Total number 7,575 (average 2,164/year)
  • More than 1 billion km2 covered. Aerial coverage of the same area would have required about 50,000 flight hours.

Number of CSN detections:

  • 8,526 in total (2,105 in 2009)

The average number of detections per image has been decreasing steadily since 2008:

  • 1.38 in 2008, 0.99 in 2009, and 0.86 in 2010 – which may be an indication of the deterrent effect of CleanSeaNet.

Number of verifications performed by Coastal States:

  • 2579 in total = 30% of detections (775 in 2009)

Number of Mineral Oil Spills Confirmed:

  • 674 in total = 26% (195 in 2009)

*Period covered: April 2007-September 2010