Dr Ian White (ITOPF)
Paper presented at SPILLCON 2000, 8th International Oil Spill Conference, 15-17 August 2000, Darwin, Australia
The paper begins by reviewing the dramatic reduction in the incidence of major tanker spills since the beginning of the 1980s. Based on the world-wide oil spill experience of the author and his colleagues at ITOPF, 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. The limitations of the various response techniques are summarised, including containment and recovery using booms and skimmers, chemical dispersion, protective booming and shoreline cleanup. The paper goes on to explain that major marine oil spills are rarely dealt with as effectively as current technology should allow. This is not usually due to a lack of specialised resources but more often because of shortcomings in the organisation and management of spill response, inadequate contingency planning and a failure to learn from the lessons of past events.