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Once oil is spilled at sea, it will naturally spread, fragment and disperse under the influence of wind, waves and currents. For spills in coastal waters, the oil will often drift towards the shore and become stranded due to the action of waves and tides. In order to contain the oil at the spill site, recover the oil floating on the sea and clean-up any oil that might become stranded on the shore, there are a variety of techniques that can be employed. The prevailing weather and sea conditions, the characteristics of the oiled shoreline and the nature of the oil can all combine to pose challenges to any clean-up operation.
Several options are available to respond to oil at sea and can be considered in three broad strategies; containment and recovery, in-situ burning and dispersant application. The selection of the most appropriate strategy will depend on many factors, including; the response resources available, the national and local regulations on oil spill response, the spill scenario and the physical and ecological characteristics of the area impacted by the spill.
Shoreline Clean-Up and Response
The majority of ship-source oil spills occur close to the coast and, as a result, many spills result in contamination of shorelines. Oil reaching stranding on the shore can cause significant environmental and economic impacts and may also largely determine the political and public perception of the scale of the incident, as well as the over costs.
When oil does reach the shoreline, considerable effort may be required to clean the affected areas. It is therefore essential that comprehensive and well-rehearsed arrangements for shoreline clean-up are included in contingency plans. The techniques available for shoreline clean-up are relatively straightforward and do not normally require specialised equipment. However, inappropriate techniques and poor organisation can aggravate the impacts caused by the oil itself.
Explore Documents on Response Techniques
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
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.
This paper examines the trends in costs associated with the various low technology shoreline clean-up methods that were used in the response to the SEA EMPRESS incident, by drawing on information gathered during the response and the subsequent claims for compensation from the local government councils involved.
DISCOBIOL: Assessment of the impact of dispersant use for oil spill response in coastal or estuarine areas (2014)
The DISCOBIOL research program aims to provide practical recommendations on dispersant use in coastal and estuarine areas by acquiring relevant (in terms of likely dispersed oil concentrations) and robust experimental information on the impact of mechanically and chemically dispersed oil on living resources.
Does cleaning oiled seabirds have conservation value? Insights from the South African experience with African Penguins (2007)
Although there is general consensus among investigators that large numbers of seabirds are killed as a result of oil spills, there is disagreement, mostly in the northern hemisphere, about the extent to which oil mortality is biologically significant to local, regional and global populations.