Eyesea has successfully tested its pollution-mapping app on ocean-going vessels and is now stepping up trials ahead of a further roll-out later this year.
Proof-of-concept readings using the prototype app were taken last month by crew members of an Oldendorff Carriers vessel near Florida, and seafarers manning a Union Marine Management Services (UMMS) vessel off the coast of Guinea-Bissau and Senegal.
Graeme Somerville-Ryan, founder of the Eyesea initiative, said: “The successful tests by Oldendorff Carriers and UMMS show how easy it is for seafarers to help us accurately map global pollution by capturing observational data in the form of GPS-stamped pictures via our app. It literally takes less than 30 seconds to record a point of interest with the app.
“It’s now a case of scaling up by route and building up the data so we can start producing the detailed maps and charts that will support targeted clean-up action and allow for evidence-based policy decisions.”
Testing now extended to multiple shipping lanes
Eyesea was launched officially in December 2020. The not-for-profit initiative uses maritime industry-developed technology to collect observational pollution data and build comprehensive maps designed to inform and empower government and NGO environmental efforts.
“We’ve been testing on land for the last five months, and while there were a lot of things we hoped would work regardless of location, we needed to see how it all played out at sea,” explained Mr Somerville-Ryan. “Eyesea worked exactly as we hoped. It is fantastic seeing commercial shipping vessels taking centre stage on a collaborative environmental protection project.”
Testing of the Eyesea app is now being extended to a wider range of commercial vessels covering more trade routes. In the coming months a number of recreational craft and community volunteers around the world will also be issued with the Eyesea app.
Following this testing period, the app will be further refined and then made available to the public through the Apple and Google Play stores.
Early tests yield actionable data
Tests off the U.S. coast have already yielded actionable data. “At this stage of the tech development we were just after data points, but one vessel – the Oldendorff ship that was sailing off the coast of Florida – managed to take a picture of what looks like a Sargassum seaweed bloom,” said Mr Somerville-Ryan. “These blooms need to be removed from beaches by local authorities in Florida, so in theory this sort of data is potentially useful for coastal communities and authorities.”
The crew of the UMMS and Oldendorff vessels involved in the first ‘at-sea’ trials tested the Eyesea app on company-issued phones and personal devices. The data points were collected offline, with delayed uploading of data through vessel Wi-Fi.
“We were a little overwhelmed by the support we received from the crew,” said Mr Somerville-Ryan. “A few people had told us that the crews would be too busy to help or care, but a couple of ‘old sea dogs’ told us not to underestimate seafarers. And indeed, the feedback we received from the Masters involved was truly humbling. These guys care about the ocean, and they are worried about what is going on and how pollution is impacting marine life and the environment which, of course, is their workplace and home.
“Seafarers want to be involved in the work Eyesea is doing – and we need them. Maritime pollution is not going to be stopped or recovered by sensors and satellites. This is a problem that will be mapped and cleaned-up by a lot of individuals taking small actions that add up to a big difference. If we work together, 1.6m seafarers on 70,000 ships can make a huge difference.”