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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?
Explore the resources
There is always a balance to be struck between the different sensitivities and priorities on a shoreline when trying to decide the degree of cleaning which should be carried out after an oil spill and the methods that should be used. Priorities need to be set depending on the use and environmental sensitivity of the shore in question. Often, there is no simple answer which will satisfy all parties.
The subject of oil spill dispersants has attracted greater attention in recent years as more countries have sought to develop legislation permitting their use. Claims about the improved effectiveness of 'new generation' dispersants coupled with concern about possible toxic effects have created a confused and emotionally charged arena in which to debate this topic.
It is often observed after large oil spills that there is pressure to review and change the oil spill prevention and emergency response system. In recent years this was true following the SEA EMPRESS (1996) which resulted in a reorganisation of responsibilities in the UK, the ERIKA (1999) which resulted in new IMO rules on tanker standards and the BALTIC CARRIER (2001) which resulted in a HELCOM review of response techniques.
Whilst large oil spills arising from shipping accidents often make dramatic news, most oil spills are small and originate in or near ports. ITOPF oil spill statistics for tankers, for instance, reveal that 80% of all tanker spills are less than 7 tonnes and that 80% of these arise from operational accidents such as those that might occur during loading, discharging, and bunkering.
As exploitation of undersea oil moves further offshore floating production and storage systems offer a cost-effective alternative to conventional fixed platforms and seabed pipelines. Floating systems come in a variety of designs but due to their versatility, FPSOs (Floating Production, Storage and Offloading units) are a particularly popular choice.
Many oil spill cases around the world have experienced significant volunteer turnouts. One of the most recent was the HEBEI SPIRIT incident in South Korea in 2007, where 10,500 tonnes of crude oil were spilled, 400km of shoreline were contaminated and 1.2 million volunteers came to help, creating extra issues that add to the core work of cleaning up the spill.
The use of chemical dispersants to combat oil spills at sea: a review of practice and research needs in Europe (2007)
In order to better understand the practice of dispersant use, a review has been undertaken of marine oil spills over a 10 year period (1995 – 2005), looking in particular at variations between different regions and oil-types. This viewpoint presents and analyses the review data and examines a range of dispersant use policies.
This paper briefly summarises the impact of oil spills on different components of the marine environment, as well as the potential for natural recovery and man-made restoration/re-instatement measures, as envisaged under the international compensation Conventions.
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.
The 1971 and 1992 International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds ("IOPC Funds") provide compensation to the victims of oil spills from tankers in countries which have ratified the 1971 and 1992 Fund Conventions.