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Explore a variety of topics about marine spills, response and compensation matters in the pages below.
Each topic and area of interest provides access to more detailed documentation that is freely downloadable.
This includes our 17 Technical Information Papers which are fully illustrated with photos and diagrams and are available in several languages.
What happens to oil in the marine environment over time when spilled at sea? How do different factors such as volume and physical and chemical properties affect the fate of oil spills?
How does oil impact seabirds, plankton, sea mammals and the shoreline?
Which industries might suffer temporary economic losses and loss of market confidence?
What are the specific chemical response strategies for responding to a Hazardous and Noxious Substance spill, and what are the potential effects on human and marine life?
What information is needed for an effective oil spill contingency plan? How can aerial observation and protective strategies assist with response operations?
What techniques are available for cleaning up oil at sea and on the shoreline?
What planning and waste management systems need to be put in place to reduce the volume of oily waste for treatment or disposal?
What legal arrangements and sources of compensation are available for a spill from a ship?
Explore the resources
The paper begins by reviewing the dramatic reduction in the incidence of major tanker spills since the beginning of the 1980s. The paper then focuses on the factors that determine the seriousness of marine oil spills and the fundamental technical difficulties of combating them at-sea, in coastal waters and on shorelines.
Based on ITOPF's extensive experience of spill clean-up around the world and quantitative data from recent spills in the UK, France, Turkey and Argentina, the paper will examine the wide range of technical, organisational, logistic and financial problems facing those responsible for managing shoreline clean-up operations.
This review of the practical lessons which can be learnt from past events is intended to provide an informed basis for the selection of more effective response techniques and equipment, and for the development of improved spill response management and contingency planning
The concept of persistence in relation to oil spills probably originated after the Torrey Canyon incident in 1967. This is when discussions first arose regarding various new measures to protect the marine environment and to manage marine oil spills, particularly in relation to liability and compensation.
Within the wider debate on the effectiveness of at-sea recovery, this paper investigates whether the particular characteristics of heavy oils warrant special consideration when planning and responding to spills of these oils. The paper reviews arguments for and against greater at-sea recovery efforts than would be justified with other, lighter oils.
There is always a balance to be struck between the different sensitivities and priorities on a shoreline when trying to decide the degree of cleaning which should be carried out after an oil spill and the methods that should be used. Priorities need to be set depending on the use and environmental sensitivity of the shore in question. Often, there is no simple answer which will satisfy all parties.
The subject of oil spill dispersants has attracted greater attention in recent years as more countries have sought to develop legislation permitting their use. Claims about the improved effectiveness of 'new generation' dispersants coupled with concern about possible toxic effects have created a confused and emotionally charged arena in which to debate this topic.
It is often observed after large oil spills that there is pressure to review and change the oil spill prevention and emergency response system. In recent years this was true following the SEA EMPRESS (1996) which resulted in a reorganisation of responsibilities in the UK, the ERIKA (1999) which resulted in new IMO rules on tanker standards and the BALTIC CARRIER (2001) which resulted in a HELCOM review of response techniques.
Whilst large oil spills arising from shipping accidents often make dramatic news, most oil spills are small and originate in or near ports. ITOPF oil spill statistics for tankers, for instance, reveal that 80% of all tanker spills are less than 7 tonnes and that 80% of these arise from operational accidents such as those that might occur during loading, discharging, and bunkering.
As exploitation of undersea oil moves further offshore floating production and storage systems offer a cost-effective alternative to conventional fixed platforms and seabed pipelines. Floating systems come in a variety of designs but due to their versatility, FPSOs (Floating Production, Storage and Offloading units) are a particularly popular choice.