ITOPF offers a broad range of technical services to its Members and Associates, their pollution insurers and other groups around the world concerned with marine spills. These services include:
- Response to spills
- Damage assessment
- Contingency planning & advisory work
- Training & education
Response to spills
ITOPF's small team of technical staff are in constant readiness to respond to ship-source spills anywhere in the world. Whilst spills from tankers and other shipping provide the majority of our work, ITOPF staff have been called upon to respond, on a consultancy basis, to spills from other sources, such as pipelines, offshore oil installations and on-shore tankfarms. For shipping, our advice is given in relation to spills of oil, carried as cargo and as bunkers, to spills of chemicals and to releases of other substances, materials and items carried as cargo.
The role of the technical staff at the site of a spill will vary according to the circumstances, but normally includes one or more of the following activities:-
- advising all parties on the potential fate and effects of the pollutant;
- advising and assisting all parties on the most appropriate clean-up response, with the aim of mitigating any damage;
- helping to secure equipment and assist in organising the clean-up in cases where the shipowner is required to mount the response operation;
- monitoring the clean-up, in order to provide subsequent reports of events and of the technical merit of the actions taken;
- investigating any damage to coastal resources such as fisheries, mariculture, industry and recreational areas.
In every case, ITOPF staff work closely with all the parties involved in a spill, with the aim of reaching mutual agreement on measures which are reasonable and best suited to the particular circumstances. This not only helps ensure that the clean-up is as effective as possible and that the minimum of damage is caused, but also that subsequent claims for compensation can be dealt with promptly and amicably.
ITOPF is frequently asked to assess the technical merits of claims for compensation arising from spills. On many occasions, this is a natural extension of its on-site involvement at the time of the spill.
ITOPF's role in damage assessment and claims analysis is one of providing advice on the technical merit of claims to those bodies which will pay the compensation (eg the Protection and Indemnity (P&I) Clubs and the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds). These bodies and not ITOPF will ultimately decide whether or not a particular claim should be paid since many other factors, other than purely technical considerations, may influence the final decision.
Under the terms of the international compensation conventions, oil spill response measures are required to be "reasonable", if they are to qualify for compensation ("reasonable" is generally understood to mean, in the context of clean-up, that the measures were justified on the basis of an objective technical evaluation of the situation at the time the decision was taken).
As well as assessing the technical reasonableness of claims for clean-up costs, ITOPF devotes considerable time to assessing claims for compensation for oil pollution damage, particularly to fisheries and mariculture facilities. ITOPF also has a pivotal role in providing technical information and analysis to all parties involved in the restoration process required under the provisions of the United States Oil Pollution Act 1990 (OPA'90).
Contingency planning and advisory work
A major spill, be it of oil or another substance, presents those in charge with a range of complex problems, not all of which will be technical in nature. There is little chance that appropriate decisions can be taken in the timely manner required for an effective response unless a considerable amount of effort is devoted beforehand to the preparation of a comprehensive, realistic contingency plan.
In view of its long involvement with oil spills, ITOPF has frequently been asked by governments, industry, international agencies and other organisations to assist with the preparation of contingency plans and also to undertake other advisory assignments.
Training and education
ITOPF organises and participates in numerous training courses and seminars for government and industry personnel around the world, and frequently assists with oil spill exercises designed to test contingency plans and response arrangements.
In 2011, ITOPF launched a new R&D initiative, funded by the world’s shipowners and their P&I insurers to provide £50,000 each year to encourage innovative thinking and provide realistic solutions to some of the challenges faced when responding to accidental oil and chemical spills and undertaking environmental monitoring. The ITOPF R&D Award is available to any organisation or R&D establishment worldwide and will fund students from all academic disciplines, but particularly those with an applied scientific focus. View further information (PDF 308Kb) instructions for applicants (WORD 49Kb) and an application form (WORD 50Kb).
As part of its overall commitment to training and education, considerable effort is devoted to the provision of practical information on oil spill response techniques and related topics. In 2012 ITOPF updated and expanded its series Technical Information Papers to reflect technological advances and ITOPF's more recent collective experience on a wide range of marine pollution topics. It also produces other occasional publications.
As a consequence of its long involvement in all aspects of marine pollution, ITOPF has developed as a primary source of information on this subject. This has several facets:
To support its technical activities, ITOPF maintains an extensive library of technical publications and information on marine pollution and clean-up techniques.
Since 1974 ITOPF has maintained a database of oil spills from tankers, combined carriers and barges. This is one of the most comprehensive of its kind and allows long term trends to be analysed.
A series of Country Profiles provides an overview of the spill response capability of specific countries. These consist of a two to four page synopsis of a coastal nation's spill response arrangements also giving a brief overview of past incidents and applicable conventions.
The Oil Spills Database and Country Profiles can be displayed on our recently developed Geographic Information System. This also displays tanker traffic and cargo volume routing data as well as the status of relevant conventions.