Documents & Guides

Explore a variety of topics about marine spills, response and compensation matters in the pages below.

Each topic and area of interest provides access to more detailed documentation that is freely downloadable.

This includes our 17 Technical Information Papers which are fully illustrated with photos and diagrams and are available in several languages. 


What happens to oil in the marine environment over time when spilled at sea? How do different factors such as volume and physical and chemical properties affect the fate of oil spills? 


How does oil impact seabirds, plankton, sea mammals and the shoreline?  


Which industries might suffer temporary economic losses and loss of market confidence?


What are the specific chemical response strategies for responding to a Hazardous and Noxious Substance spill, and what are the potential effects on human and marine life? 


What information is needed for an effective oil spill contingency plan? How can aerial observation and protective strategies assist with response operations? 


What techniques are available for cleaning up oil at sea and on the shoreline?


What planning and waste management systems need to be put in place to reduce the volume of oily waste for treatment or disposal?


What legal arrangements and sources of compensation are available for a spill from a ship?

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Trends in oil spills from tanker ships 1995-2004 (2005)

The number of oil spills from tanker ships has decreased significantly over the last 30 years. This paper examines trends in tanker oil spills worldwide over the 10 year period from 1995 to 2004 and analyses potential influences on spill volumes and frequencies for incidents of 3 different spill size classes.

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Global trends in ship-sourced marine pollution (2010)

A review of the trends over the past 10 years shows that Asia and Europe are the regions where ITOPF attended oil spills most often.

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New horizons: Dealing with major oil spills from non-tanker sources (2011)

This paper starts by discussing the topic of declining tanker spills and ITOPF's work with non-tankers. It continues with what the new dimensions for response to non-tanker spills might be, before reviewing some of the main issues in marine oil spill response, whatever the source. It finishes with a brief look at the need for preparation and R&D.

Categories: Papers

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Half a century of shipping spills: What's changed? (2012)

Over the last half century, particularly since the critical TORREY CANYON incident of 1967, the most noteworthy change has been the dramatic decline in the number of major tanker spills from an annual average of 24.5 in the 1970s to 3.3 in the 2000s, despite the growing size of the world fleet.

Categories: Papers , Information Services

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Trends in oil spills from tankers and ITOPF non-tanker attended Incidents (2012)

This paper examines trends in tanker oil spills worldwide over a 20 year period from 1992 to 2011 and analyses potential influences on spill volumes and frequencies for incidents in the spill size groups 7-700 tonnes and >700 tonnes. ITOPF’s attendance of incidents is also analysed to demonstrate trends in the complexity of oil spill response.

Categories: Papers , Information Services

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Are HNS spills more dangerous than oil spills? (2009)

While the hazards and consequences of oil spills are well known, little information exists for chemical spills. Words such as ‘carcinogenic’, ‘mutagenic’, and ‘neurotoxic’, which appear on shipping documents, are readily misinterpreted and extrapolated to worst-case scenarios causing public apprehension and mistrust. This paper attempts to answer the question ‘Are HNS Spills More Dangerous Than Oil Spills?

Categories: Papers , HNS

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To carry or not to carry? Onboard spill response equipment - Is it practicable? (1998)

The question as to whether oil tankers should carry oil spill response equipment onboard has been the subject of debate for many years. The idea received considerable attention in the previous decade during the preparation of regulations by the United States Coast Guard as a result of the US Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA'90).

Categories: Papers , Response Techniques, Planning & operations

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When should clean-up operations be brought to a close - How clean is clean? (1998)

At the outset of a major oil spill, it is hard to imagine how shorelines inundated with the thick black pollutant will ever be cleaned or that they will ever return to their original condition. Two facts are known as a result of these unfortunate experiences: first, these shorelines are eventually cleaned and second, that nature plays a very large part in that cleaning process.

Categories: Papers , Response Techniques

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New directions in marine pollution control (1999)

The paper begins by examining the incidence of major marine oil spills from tankers and other types of ships before describing the potential for controlling the resulting pollution.

Categories: Papers , Response Techniques

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Oil spill response - Experience, trends and challenges (2000)

The paper begins by reviewing the dramatic reduction in the incidence of major tanker spills since the beginning of the 1980s. 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.

Categories: Papers , Response Techniques

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