Clear Seas launches a tool to assess the sensitivity of coastal areas to oil spills

A new interactive web-based technology helps coastal communities to plan marine activities

Clear Seas launches a tool to assess the sensitivity of coastal areas to oil spills

Clear Seas Centre for Responsible Marine Shipping (Clear Seas) has launched an interactive tool to assess the sensitivity of coastal areas to oil spills.

The Sensitive Coastal Area (SCA) tool will help the shipping industry, regulators and coastal communities plan marine activities by better understanding the sensitivity of the coast in the event of an oil spill caused by marine shipping activity. 

The SCA tool, commissioned by Clear Seas and developed by Dillon Consulting Limited, has been initially applied to Canada’s Pacific Coast. The study assessed sensitivity to oil spills of the coastline and sea floor, any animal and plant species present, and any socio-economic activities. This tool is the first time that these sensitivities have been combined in an interactive, publicly accessible format.  

As new projects like liquefied natural gas exports and marine terminal expansions are evaluated, and the location of shipping lanes is assessed, the SCA tool will provide planners and developers with new insights to support the planning, approval, development and operation of these and other uses of the coast. The specialized mapping tool is part of Clear Seas’ Marine Transportation Corridors initiative – which allows planners to consider sensitivity when managing shipping needs in the context of other coastal uses. Planners can then avoid areas of high sensitivity or focus risk mitigation activities on those areas most in need of protection.

The SCA tool combines three categories of publicly available data using a highly detailed interactive web-map incorporating geographic information system (GIS) databases. The data is divided into a grid of two nautical mile cells that, in this first application, assessed 443,000 km2 of BC’s coastal waters.

The decision to use publicly available datasets with no licence restrictions is driven by Clear Seas’ commitment to disseminate information widely for public benefit as part of its mandate to provide fact-based information to facilitate informed dialogue.