Oil Tanker Spill Statistics 2023

16 January 2024

Oil Tanker Spill Statistics 2023

ITOPF has published its Oil Tanker Spill Statistics for the year 2023 and it shows 10 oil spills of more than seven tonnes occurred in the year. These statistics bring the decade average to 6.8, which is a dramatic reduction from the numbers reported in earlier decades and in line with the average for the 2010s.

One of the 10 incidents from 2023 occurred in Asia and resulted in a spill of heavy fuel oil with a volume greater than 700 tonnes, spills of this volume are classified as ‘large’ spills.

The nine other incidents are classified as medium spills as they were more than seven tonnes but less than 700 tonnes, and involved spills of very low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFOs), crude and gasoline. Four of these incidents occurred in Asia, two in Africa, two in Europe and one in America.

The total volume of oil lost to the environment from tanker spills in 2023 was approximately 2,000 tonnes. This estimate is lower than the previous two years and remains a fraction of the total amount of oil that is transported by sea each year.

Accidental spills from tankers account for only a small percentage of the oil that enters the environment each year. Pipeline spills, oil industry activities, petroleum usage (including oil spills from non-tankers and ‘run-off’ from roads and other land-based sources), as well as natural seepage, all contribute towards annual inputs. Therefore, ITOPF’s report shows only part of the picture relating to the global input of oil into the marine environment.

Despite some annual fluctuations, the number and volume of oil spills from tankers have plummeted since ITOPF’s records began half a century ago. While the number of spills in recent years is stabilising at a low level, ITOPF is observing the volume of oil released into the environment from tankers continues to fluctuate year-on-year.

The shipping industry has driven this reduction, supported by governments and IMO, through positive change in its commitment to exploring innovation and investing in improvements to maritime safety and environmental protection.

More detailed information is available on our Statistics page. The full Oil Tanker Spill Statistics report for 2023 will be available later this month.

ITOPF holds data on more than 10,000 oil spills from tankers, including combined carriers, FPSOs and barges. This includes the location and cause of the incident, the vessel involved, the type of oil spilt and the amount of oil spilt. Spills are categorised by size, ie small (<7 tonnes or 50 bbls), medium (7-700 tonnes or 50-5000 bbls) or large (>700 tonnes or 5,000 bbls), although the actual amount spilt is also recorded.

Information is gathered from shipping and other specialist publications, as well as from vessel owners, their insurers and ITOPF’s own experience at incidents. Historically, information from published sources related mostly to large spills, often resulting from collisions, groundings, structural damage, fire or explosions. Nevertheless, in recent decades reporting of smaller spills has improved.

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