For close to five decades, the frequency of oil spills from tankers has shown a progressive downward trend. The average number of spills of 7 tonnes or more is now about six per year, from a high of 79 in the 1970s. The yearly average for large spills, i.e. greater than 700 tonnes, has also reduced from around 25 in the 1970s to less than two since 2010.
Statistics for the quantity of oil spilled show a similar trend. However, this trend can be distorted by a single large spill as shown in Figure 2 below.
In 2018, three spills of over 700 tonnes were reported. ITOPF attended two of these incidents to provide technical advice, both in East Asia. Three medium spills (7–700 tonnes) were also reported.
The estimated total amount of oil lost to the environment through tanker incidents in 2018 was approximately 116,000 tonnes, the majority of which can be attributed to the SANCHI incident, a spill of non-persistent oil with significantly lower environmental impacts compared to crude oil.
The number of oil spills involving tankers remains low despite a general increase in oil trading over the years and tanker owners and governments continue to work together to improve safety and standards of operations in seaborne oil transportation.
Further information is available on our statistics page.
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