Over the past few decades, there has been a growing interest in exploring innovative ways to minimise the environmental footprint of coastal developments and marine disasters for shoreline blue carbon ecosystem protection.
Given that there were on average 1.8 large oil spills from tanker incidents every year in the decade from 2010 to 2019, countries whose coastline are currently laid vulnerable to oil spills become ecological disaster target zones. Areas that have been impacted most recently are the Israeli and Lebanese shorelines this year, and the Mauritian coastline last year.
Given the significant impact blue carbon ecosystems have on climate change, they need to be protected against oil spills and debris. Oil booms are systems primarily used to contain oil spills and debris, to prevent damage to the blue carbon ecosystems. Placing oil booms in key positions around beaches and reserves can prevent environmental damage caused by oil spills.
How blue carbon ecosystems fight climate change
The coastal ecosystems of mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrass meadows provide numerous benefits and services. These are essential for climate change adaptation along coasts globally, including protection from storms and sea level rise, prevention of coastal erosion, regulation of coastal water quality, provision of habitat for commercially important fisheries and endangered marine species, and food security for many coastal communities. These blue carbon ecosystems can be up to 10 times more efficient than terrestrial ecosystems at absorbing and storing carbon long term, making them a critical solution in the fight against climate change.
Coastal blue carbon ecosystems are found along the coasts of every continent except Antarctica. Mangroves grow in the intertidal zone of tropical and subtropical shores. Tidal marshes are intertidal ecosystems occurring on sheltered coastlines ranging from the sub-arctic to the tropics, though mainly in Europe, North America, Australia and in the higher latitudes of South America and Africa. While seagrass meadows are communities of underwater-flowering plants found in coastal waters of all continents with the exception of Antarctica.
Why they need protecting
Despite these benefits, coastal blue carbon ecosystems are some of the most threatened ecosystems on earth, with an estimated 1,312 to 3,783 square miles being destroyed each year. It is estimated that up to 67 per cent of the global coverage of mangroves have been lost to either deforestation, chemical spills and other human causes. If these trends continue at current rates, a further 30–40 per cent of tidal marshes, seagrasses and nearly all unprotected mangroves could be lost in the next century. When degraded or lost, these ecosystems can become significant sources of the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide.
A few months ago, the cargo ship MV Wakashio ran aground on a coral reef on the southeast tip of Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean. The resulting oil spill caused immense damage to the marine ecosystem in the area. The Japanese-owned vessel held 200 tonnes of diesel and 3,900 tonnes of fuel oil, of which an estimated 1,000 tonnes leaked into the sea when the ship’s hull cracked. The spill has left a 15-kilometre stretch of the coastline – an internationally recognised biodiversity hotspot – smeared with oil. An area that was particularly vulnerable were the mangroves on the northern shoreline, which have been covered by the oil slick. Given the importance of mangroves to marine ecosystems, this is a hugely concerning development.
The effectiveness of oil booms
Oil booms are primarily used to protect blue carbon shoreline areas from the damage caused by oil discharge. They can be implemented in ports, harbours, pipeline and intake projects, marinas, waterways and offshore as well, to protect them from oil spills. In addition, they also serve to protect marine areas from unwanted debris.
Following a spate of oil spills off the UAE coast, Ecocoast was required to install an inflatable oil boom. These oil spills affected a wide range of people – not only those living along the coast, such as fishing communities, but also hoteliers, diving centres, blue carbon nature reserve and mangrove swamps.
Following the deployment of the emergency oil boom, we were recently tasked with manufacturing and installing an Ecobarrier Harbour Boom in the fishing village harbour. The Ecobarrier Harbour Boom is a heavy-duty, durable oil boom that has been designed to stay in the water for years, with minimum maintenance. Constructed of high tensile material, the booms typical installations include intakes, ports and harbours. Its floats are rotomolded, foam filled, long and wide, which provide superior buoyancy in rough water.
With its installation, we plan to keep the precious mangrove ecosystem in the UAE safe, secure, and protected from any future man-made disasters, for years to come.
Boom options for protection and prevention
At Ecocoast, we offer three types of oil booms under the brand name of Ecobarrier, with each designed for specific environmental conditions and project durations:
1. Foam-Filled Oil Booms – Suitable for short-term installations and calm water environments. The booms, used in emergency situations, can be deployed much faster than any other oil boom, due to their lightweight construction.
2. Solid Flotation Booms – Suitable for emergency installations and low to high currents. These are general purpose booms that operate with little maintenance and provide years of performance.
3. Harbour Booms – Heavy-duty, durable oil booms suitable for permanent installations.
4. Inflatable Oil Booms – Rapid deployment, air-inflated booms for protected waters. They can be stored on boom reels – the most effective way of deployment in emergency situations, and a good choice for when storage space is limited.
The Ecobarrier range can be deployed in ports, harbours, marinas, rivers, petrochemical shipping terminals, desalination plants and offshore. The booms are fully customisable, with anchoring accessories also available.
Within the last year, there has been just under 60,000 tonnes of oil spilt into our waters across the globe, destroying blue carbon ecosystems in its wake. We urge Governments, Environmental Agencies and Councils to seek preventative measures to stop oil in its tracks, saving resources from clean up and the environmental areas from disasters.
Authored: Chris Reeder, Regional Business Development Manager, Ecocoast
For more on Ecocoast and the booms mentioned, please visit https://www.ecocoast.com/