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EUROWA Module activated during the Bow Jubail oil spill response

Within hours of the of the chemical tanker Bow Jubail incident in Rotterdam Harbour in the Netherlands, hundreds of mute swans moulting in the harbour area were oiled.

Bow Jubail’s fuel tanks ruptured in the early afternoon of the 23rd of June 2018 as the crew attempted to moor the vessel at a jetty in 3rd Petroleumhaven, in the heart of the Rotterdam harbour. Some 230 metric tons of fuel oil poured out of the penetrated tank and quickly spread with the tide. Although most of the oil was contained by booming off the harbour area, the remaining oil traveled with the outgoing tide towards the North Sea, oiling the swans along the way.

The wildlife response, organised according to the Rijkswaterstaat wildlife plan in the days that followed, was in immediate need of expertise from outside  the Netherlands, in order to design, set up and operate a large temporary wildlife hospital. Via Sea Alarm, EUROWA experts were activated and mobilized.

Some 18 experts were brought from five European countries (Belgium, Germany, United Kingdom, Estonia, Ireland), and another 5 experts from further afield (United States and Brazil). Together with their Dutch colleagues from SON-Respons, they blended as a team to lead and run the temporary centre, with its large number of volunteers, for a full month. A total of 522 oiled mute swans were treated according to the EUROWA protocol and the various practical guidelines that the EUROWA network has developed as part of an EU-funded project (2015-2016). A total of 509 (97.5%) of the animals were successfully released, each with a health condition that matched established release criteria and a scientific ring to help collect resighting data.

This successful deployment demonstrated clearly that the use of international standards and guidelines by expert groups and authorities as the basis for in-country training, exercises and response planning, pays off. The EUROWA network, which an increasing number of organisations from European countries are joining, can mobilise and provide a coherent team of experts who can quickly undertake key roles and responsibilities. The team members’ common understanding of objectives, methodology and structures for work floor cooperation are the basis for a powerful service that can assist any European country who has to deal with the immediate wildlife challenges following an oil spill event.

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