On November 13th, 2002 the 26 year old tanker Prestige reported an emergency off the North Western Spanish coast (Galicia). The ship was carrying 77,000 tons of heavy fuel oil that started to be spilled while the vessel was towed away from the coast, affecting more than 900 km of shoreline. The location and the way the accident occurred implied a great challenge for the organization and coordinaton of actions to fight against the oil pollution. The site, just off the Finis terre cap, is a complex region from the oceanographic point of view and weather conditions, and this facilitated the fuel transport and spread over a great area. In order to take rapid preventive actions, it was crucial to have accurate spill trajectory forecasts covering direction and coastal impact. Under the coordination of public agencies and Spanish academic and research institutions, an operational monitoring system was built including wind and wave forecast, oil spill dispersion models, and visual inspection flights. Although the use of lagrangian floats was made in other incidents in the past (i.e Erika tanker) the characteristics of the Prestige accident indicated the need to deploy a relative great number of buoys as a major novelty respect to similar accidents in the past. The purpose of this contribution is to describe the operational actions performed during this particular accident, and to show the use of Lagrangian floats as an efficient procedure to improve the management and advice for such catastrophic events.

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