THE stretch of water between Majorca and Minorca is to be the scene of a massive international petrol tanker disaster simulation.
The main aim of operation Mediterráneo 2005 is to make sure all coastal regions have the capacity to deal with a major oil spill.
France, Italy and Monaco will also be participating in the training exercise, the biggest of its kind to be carried out in the Balearics.
The tragic Prestige oil tanker disaster off Northern Spain a few years ago highlighted the dangers posed by toxic shipping in European waters. A disaster of that scale, or even smaller, would prove near disastrous for the Balearics as we are dependent on tourism and clean beaches - not to mention the wildlife and natural resources.
The director general for merchant shipping, Felipe Martínez, is in the process of explaining and outlining the operation to the Balearic government and other national and regional authorities responsible for dealing with a shipping accident of this kind.
The training exercise will test the level of coordination between the various organisations involved with responding to these kinds of disasters and form part of the national contingency plan in the event of a major merchant shipping accident.
Since the Prestige disaster, the Western Mediterranean has been listed by Greenpeace as a potential disaster area. The results of the training operation will be discussed by all participating countries as they make sure they all know how to respond to a major oil or toxic spill. They hope to improve existing contingency plans.
The Spanish Navy, Guardia Civil, Balearic Civil protection, the Air Force, Spanish government and the centre for the prevention of marine contamination are just some of the bodies and organisations which will be taking part in the operation expected to be staged during the first two weeks of May.
A spokesperson for the Development Ministry said that this will be the biggest training exercise in Spain this year.
The armed forces are not only going to be responsible for helping the contingency operation, but also for staging the accident and oil spill.