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Once oil is spilled at sea, it will naturally spread, fragment and disperse under the influence of wind, waves and currents. For spills in coastal waters, the oil will often drift towards the shore and become stranded due to the action of waves and tides. In order to contain the oil at the spill site, recover the oil floating on the sea and clean-up any oil that might become stranded on the shore, there are a variety of techniques that can be employed. The prevailing weather and sea conditions, the characteristics of the oiled shoreline and the nature of the oil can all combine to pose challenges to any clean-up operation.
Several options are available to respond to oil at sea and can be considered in three broad strategies; containment and recovery, in-situ burning and dispersant application. The selection of the most appropriate strategy will depend on many factors, including; the response resources available, the national and local regulations on oil spill response, the spill scenario and the physical and ecological characteristics of the area impacted by the spill.
Shoreline Clean-Up and Response
The majority of ship-source oil spills occur close to the coast and, as a result, many spills result in contamination of shorelines. Oil reaching stranding on the shore can cause significant environmental and economic impacts and may also largely determine the political and public perception of the scale of the incident, as well as the over costs.
When oil does reach the shoreline, considerable effort may be required to clean the affected areas. It is therefore essential that comprehensive and well-rehearsed arrangements for shoreline clean-up are included in contingency plans. The techniques available for shoreline clean-up are relatively straightforward and do not normally require specialised equipment. However, inappropriate techniques and poor organisation can aggravate the impacts caused by the oil itself.
Explore Documents on Response Techniques
In cases of large spills, the source of stranded oil may be obvious, but the question of identification frequently arises when a small amount of oil is involved and compensation is sought for damage or clean-up costs. The purpose of this paper is to assist the reader in recognising both the type and quantity of oil on differing shorelines.
This paper considers the types of sorbents available and how they may be used beneficially in a response. It should be read in conjunction with other ITOPF papers in this series, particularly on the use of booms, the use of skimmers, shoreline clean-up techniques and the disposal of oil and debris.
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).
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.