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RPS modelling supports the Mauritius government oil spill response

25 August 2020 | 4 min read

RPS teams in Australia and the United States specialise in modelling the movement of spilled oil, to guide the best response and to understand the potential environmental and economic impacts of these marine disasters - at any ocean or coastal location around the world.

On the 25th July 2020, a cargo ship ran aground on a reef off the coast of Mauritius and began spilling fuel oil. On August 6, the Mauritian government was prompted to announce a state of environmental emergency. On Sunday morning of August 7, Scott Langtry, Principal Scientist at RPS was contacted by Curtin University, Perth. Curtin had people on the ground in Mauritius setting up a marine science campus and were reaching out for support for the evolving disaster as the ship began to break apart. Scott immediately volunteered to help, knowing that he had the necessary tools to respond quickly. Within an hour he delivered a vital forecast, and one that proved to be an accurate prediction of impact areas over the coming days that was relied upon by the response committee and the Prime Minister.

The level of accuracy prompted the response commander, the Police Commissioner of Mauritius, to request ongoing collaboration between RPS and the Mauritius Oceanography Institute to continue to forecast the evolving spill. With the aid of very accurate bathymetric data provided by MOI, within 24 hours the RPS team had built a sophisticated model of the water flow within the complex lagoon system being impacted. RPS then applied this model within the advanced OILMAP spill prediction system to deliver vital forecasts each day since August 7. The forecasts have proven to be highly accurate when compared with satellite imagery and other observations, providing crucial guidance for the placement of response equipment and clean-up efforts.

Scott Langtry commented, “We are very proud to be supporting the Mauritian government organisations and their people by supplying this crucial information to the response command and the PM. We understand that emergency response is time sensitive and dependent on accurate information, so we have been really pleased to provide vital modelling predictions to direct critical response activities working to minimise the environmental impact of this terrible situation. Two weeks in, we’re pleased to see just how accurate our forecasts have been in this complex setting, based on detailed satellite and drone surveys now emerging.”

RPS is now gearing up to tackle the more detailed question of natural resource damage assessment, which will include assessment of the toxicity of oil in the lagoon waters which has the potential to adversely impact the habitats and marine animals.

How we help

RPS’ Ocean Science & Technology team specialises in the modelling of spills and discharges into the marine environment. They also deliver marine modelling technology and training for oil and chemical spills and maritime search and rescue to emergency response organisations throughout the world. Their day to day work focuses on calculating the risks of exposure to sensitive resources as a contribution to environmental impact assessments for many coastal and offshore industries. This helps our clients to reduce impacts and prepare for accidents.

The team has provided a 24/7 response modelling service spanning the Asia-Pacific region for over 15 years. Clients include Maritime Safety Authorities of several nations including Australian and New Zealand and many oil companies that are actively exploring or producing offshore.

These efforts are based on long-term collaboration with the RPS team in Rhode Island, who developed and continue to enhance the technology used to deliver the modelling services. Models used by both teams calculate oil and chemical spill behaviour (OILMAP, CHEMMAP), and guide search and rescue at sea (SARMAP). RPS has pioneered operational data delivery for marine emergencies, developing Environmental Data Server technology that allows immediate supply of the metocean and detailed tidal current forecasts required as input for rapid, and accurate, emergency response, anywhere in the world.

For more information contact Scott Langtry, details below.

About RPS

Founded in 1970, RPS, A Tetra Tech Company (RPS) is a leading global professional services firm of 5,000 consultants and service providers. Operating in 125 countries, working across six continents we define, design and manage projects that create shared value to a complex, urbanising and resource-scarce world.

RPS delivers a broad range of services in six sectors: property, energy, transport, water, defence and government services and resources. Services provided across RPS' six sectors cover twelve service clusters: project and program management, design and development, water services, environment, advisory and management consulting, exploration and development, planning and approvals, health, safety and risk, oceans and coastal, laboratories, training and communications, creative and digital services.

RPS stands out for its clients by using its deep expertise to solve problems that matter, making them easy to understand. Making complex easy.

For further information, please visit www.rpsgroup.com.