Last Updated on Thursday, 12 August, 2021 at 2:20 pm by Andre Camilleri
The CALYPSO South Project observing systems were inaugurated today at Għar Lapsi, close to the site of one of the radars, in the presence of Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Planning Aaron Farrugia and Parliamentary Secretary for European Funds Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi.
As a result of a €2.5 million Interreg Italia-Malta 2014-2020 project, funded by the European Regional Development Fund, the Physical Oceanography Group within the Department of Geosciences at the University of Malta have set up specialised equipment delivering operational, real-time marine data to the Maltese nation through dedicated services including a smartphone app.
The main observing system consists of a High-Frequency Radar network at selected stations on the coast around the Maltese islands and on the southern coast of Sicily. In combination with other meteo-marine data acquisition systems regular observations are conducted to sense the sea and churn out data on essential variables describing its state in real-time.
These High-Frequency Radars use sensors to take routine measurements and provide regular data, giving scientists repeated snapshots of meteo-marine conditions as these evolve in time. This data principally serves to aid responsible national entities with safer navigation, assisting with Search and Rescue Operations, and in case of threats from marine spills of oil and hazardous materials.
Minister Aaron Farrugia praised this important project and the collaboration between the ministry, the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) and the University of Malta, explaining that such scientific data is necessary in order to inform policy decisions on environmental matters. He said that the marine environment is particularly significant for our islands as the blue economy employs 27,000 persons and makes up 15% of the Maltese economy. “As a small island at the centre of the Mediterranean, the marine environment defines us as a nation. It has influenced our history and shaped our traditions and economy. We owe it to current and future generations to take the best course of action when it comes to our marine environment. Such innovation is key in ensuring we maintain a healthy ecosystem in our seas, which is vital for our environment, economy and the wellbeing of families, as well as the quality of our food supply. Our efforts must also be intensified as we face the threat of climate change,” stated Minister Farrugia.
Parliamentary Secretary Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi said that by means of this project, which was carried out with an investment of €2.5 million, it is evident that when there is collaboration and continuous work, better and more effective results can be achieved.
He outlined that this project will lead to extensive marine research which is beneficial for various sectors, such as the tourism sector. The parliamentary secretary also said that there is continuous investment of European funds in favour of a better environment. Environmental projects are also being designed by the government – in fact, through the Recovery and Resilience Plan, Malta has set out that half of the funds allocated to Malta by the European Union are to go entirely towards environmental projects so that together the country can push forward solutions to further improve the environment.
The Rector of the University of Malta and officials from Transport Malta and the Civil Protection Department were also present for the inauguration.
“In the era of digitisation, the elaboration of marine data becomes a cutting-edge aspect of economic excellence and competitiveness”, said Prof. Aldo Drago, the Project Leader for CALYPSO South and a member of the UM academia within the Department of Geosciences. “Data covering all aspects of the marine ecosystem is needed to monitor the health of our sea, keeping the sustainability of our marine resources under control against over exploitation and irreversible impacts like climate change”, he continued.
University Rector, Prof. Alfred J. Vella, said that this project is the perfect marriage between technology, developed thanks to researchers at the University, and practical application of the science, which will benefit countries in our area of the Mediterranean Sea, an area that is particularly vulnerable to oil spills – considering that around 20% of the world’s oil tanker traffic passes through it. “This network of radars started as a concept by Prof. Aldo Drago some 12 years ago, but is nowadays a reality, providing stakeholders with essential data, and it represents a prime example of how the University’s efforts and effects extend way beyond the campus”, concluded Prof. Vella.