Following the spill of oil from PRESTIGE, Spain and Portugal called for resources to assist in the response. Over the following month, a major fleet was assembled with sixteen vessels from eight nations. Although a significant volume of oil was subsequently collected at sea the vessels experienced varying degrees of success.

This paper looks at the operations of each vessel and considers the reasons for their different performance. Consideration is given to the behaviour and spread of the oil and how this affected operations. The capabilities of the vessels to recover oil in Atlantic waters and to store and subsequently discharge this oil are considered. The containment and recovery systems used are analysed to determine their suitability in the circumstances. The command and control of the fleet by the authorities is discussed. The paper concludes by comparing the effectiveness of this fleet of specialised vessels with that of the fleet of fishing vessels which contributed to the overall volume of oil collected at sea.

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