In this paper, we present the operational forecasting system developed to assist in the response to the 2002 Prestige oil spill in Cantabria. The objective of the system developed was to forecast the wave climate, tidal and wind currents, and oil spill trajectories to provide a technical assessment to decision makers for a response to the oil spill. The two main components of the system were data collection and processing and integration with numerical models for forecasting. The information from overflights received daily became essential in achieving a correct initial position of the oil slicks. Meteorological and oceanographic data were also received daily by means of an emergency protocol established between Puertos del Estado (Spain), the Naval Research Laboratory (USA), and the University of Cantabria (Spain). These data were used to run the trajectory model, the wave propagation model, and the shallow depth-integrated flow model. The information generated by the numerical simulations was presented to the decision makers every day in the form of maps that were easy and quick to interpretation as a tool to help in the response planning.
In addition, to develop a defensive or protection strategy for sensitive areas like estuaries and marshes, a hydrodynamic study was carried out by the University of Cantabria in all the estuaries of the region. The result of this study consisted of a boom deployment plan for each.