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The third co-ordination meeting of the Multinational Response and Preparedness to Oil and Chemical Spill (MARPOCS) research project funded by the European Commission to fight marine pollution was held in Casablanca, Morocco, between the 1st and 3rd of March 2017 with the participation of PLOCAN, project partner.

The MARPOCS Project arose out of the need for regional co-operation in the North-Eastern Atlantic to fight marine pollution, previously highlighted by several important accidents off the coasts of Spain, Morocco, France and Portugal.

The meeting was held in the facilities of the Institut National de Recherche Halieutique (INRH) in Casablanca. The following representatives of the project partners took part: IST (Portugal) [project co-ordinator], Action Modulers (Portugal), Cedre (France), Arditi (Portugal), Plocan (Spain), ULPGC (Spain) and INRH (Morocco). The meeting was also attended by several institutions that form part of the advisory council to the consortium: Coast Guard Service, Cetmar, DGPM (Direçao-Geral de Politica do Mar), DGAM (Direcção-Geral da Autoridade Marítima) and AMSSA (African Maritime Safety and Security Agency).

The meeting agenda focused on revising each of the project work packages and organising the tasks to be done in the coming months. A working session was also held with end users in Morocco, together with a training day on the MARPOCS rig with users, accessible at the project webpage.

The Lisbon Agreement, ratified in 2014 by the above-mentioned countries and also by the EU, envisages co-operation in the event of environmental accidents. Cross-border strategies to deal with marine pollution by toxic and hazardous substances (THS), and especially by oil spills, have been developed in several regions under international agreements and EU R+D+I projects. But the Atlantic sub-region encompassing Morocco, Madeira and the Canary Islands has not come together in a similar fashion. Oil and gas prospecting and drilling activities carried out recently in this area have raised awareness to potential environmental threats. Although THS spill accidents are not as common as oil spills, their impact, the variety of products and the growth in the volumes carried are good enough reason for developing both regional and cross-border capabilities to deal with both kinds of spills. This is particularly important in the area under study, as it is an environmentally sensitive zone and depends socio-economically on marine-maritime resources and tourism.

Based on the previous efforts of the EU, and pursuant to the international parallel protocols (OPRC-HNS etc.), strategies and R+D+i initiatives by this institution, MARPOCS is promoting a common operational framework, with cutting-edge, model-based decision-making tools and drills dealing with THS and oil spills, adapted to the region and supported by cross-border co-operation and the implementation and training of local, regional and international authorities. This strategy will reinforce the capability to provide mutual assistance and multinational preparedness and the response to episodes of accidental pollution in this cross-border sub-region, in line with the plans of the Lisbon Agreement.