Oil Pollution from Ships

Oil Pollution ' Prevention, Preparedness, Response and Cooperation

Preparedness, Response and Co-operation

Good prevention initiatives can go a long way to reducing the risk of pollution from ships. However, in spite of best efforts, spills will inevitably occur. When this happens, it is necessary to ensure that effective preparedness measures are in place that will ensure a timely and coordinated response to limit the adverse consequences from oil and HNS pollution incidents.

The International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation 1990 (OPRC 90) is the international instrument that provides a framework designed to facilitate international co-operation and mutual assistance in preparing for and responding to major oil pollution incidents and requires States to plan and prepare by developing national systems for pollution response in their respective countries, and by maintaining adequate capacity and resources to address oil pollution emergencies.

The Protocol on Preparedness, Response and Co-operation to Pollution Incidents by Hazardous and Noxious Substances, 2000 (OPRC-HNS Protocol) extends this regulatory framework to address pollution incidents involving hazardous and noxious substances.

 

Oil Spills

Did you know that, in the past 10 years, the number of major oil spills from ships has been more than halved, while the total quantity of trade transported by sea has almost doubled?

Measures introduced by IMO have helped ensure that the majority of oil tankers are safely built and operated and are constructed to reduce the amount of oil spilled in the event of an accident. Operational pollution, such as from routine tank cleaning operations, has also been cut.

The most important regulations for preventing pollution by oil from ships are contained in Annex I of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 relating thereto (MARPOL), The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974 also includes special requirements for tankers.

Industry figures show that in 2009 goods loaded at ports worldwide are estimated to have reached 7.8 billion tons; seaborne shipments of crude oil amounted to 1.72 billion tons and world shipments of petroleum products amounted to 924.6 million tons. (Source: UNCTAD Review of Maritime Transport, 2010, p 8). Measures introduced by IMO have helped ensure that the majority of oil tankers are safely built and operated and are constructed to reduce the amount of oil spilled in the event of an accident. Operational pollution, e.g. from routine tank cleaning operations, has also been cut. Despite the rare major accident, which can cause a spike in the annual statistics, the overall trend demonstrates a continuing improvement, both in the number of oil spills and quantity of oil spilled each year. The biggest single “decade-to-decade” reduction in oil spills was from the 1970s to the 1980s, coinciding with the adoption and entry into force of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 relating thereto MARPOL 73/78 which is rightly credited with having had a substantial positive impact in decreasing the amount of oil that enters the sea from maritime transportation activities. The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974 also includes special requirements for tankers. The amount of oil spilt at sea today bears no comparison with the levels of twenty or even ten years ago, accidents involving tankers causing serious pollution still happen from time to time. There is also concern about continuing instances of deliberate non-compliance, whereby a small minority of ship officers flout company procedures and MARPOL pollution prevention rules, despite the million-dollar fines being imposed on parties found guilty of such malpractices.

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