ITOPF has released Oil Tanker Spill Statistics for 2015 which reveals that the downward trend in oil spills from tankers continues. For the last three and a half decades the average number of incidents involving large oil spills, i.e. greater than 700 tonnes, from tankers has progressively reduced and since 2010 stands at an average of 1.8 per year.
In 2015 two spills of oil over 700 tonnes from tankers were recorded; one a crude oil spill in Singapore and the other a spill of naphtha in Turkey. ITOPF provided technical advice to the vessels’ insurers in both incidents. Six medium-sized spills (7-700 tonnes) were also reported in 2015, involving cargoes of asphalt, naphtha and slurry oil, as well as bunker fuel.
The total amount of oil lost to the environment through tanker incidents in 2015 was approximately 7,000 tonnes, the majority of which can be attributed to the two large spills.
This continuing trend in low numbers of large oil spills annually is encouraging news for tanker operators and governments alike as they continue to work to improve standards of operations in sea-borne transportation.
Number of Oil Spills in 2015
Two large spills (>700 tonnes) were recorded for 2015. Both releases of oil occurred as a result of a collision. The first, in Singapore in January, resulted in a spill of approximately 4,500 tonnes of crude oil and the second in Turkey in June resulted in a spill of approximately 1,400 tonnes of naphtha. ITOPF provided technical advice to the vessels’ insurers in both incidents.
For the last three and a half decades the average number of incidents involving large oil spills from tankers has reduced progressively and since 2010 stands at an average of 1.8 large oil spills per year.
Six medium spills (i.e. between 7 and 700 tonnes) of various oils were also recorded for 2015 including cargoes of asphalt, naphtha and slurry oil, as well as bunker fuels. Whilst this is slightly higher than the average of medium sized spills for this decade, it is still far below the averages for previous decades.
Quantities of Oil Spilt in 2015
The total recorded amount of oil lost to the environment in 2015 was approximately 7,000 tonnes, the vast majority of which can be attributed to the two large spills (>700 tonnes) recorded in January and June.
Seaborne Oil Trade
While increased movements might imply increased risk, it is encouraging to observe that downward trends in oil spills continue despite an overall increase in oil trading since the mid-1980s.
When looking at the frequency and quantities of oil spilt, it should be noted that a few very large spills are responsible for a high percentage of oil spilt. For example, in more recent decades the following can be seen:
- In the 1990s there were 358 spills of 7 tonnes and over, resulting in 1,133,000 tonnes of oil lost; 73% of this amount was spilt in just 10 incidents.
- In the 2000s there were 181 spills of 7 tonnes and over, resulting in 196,000 tonnes of oil lost; 75% of this amount was spilt in just 10 incidents.
- In the six year period 2010-2015 there have been 42 spills of 7 tonnes and over, resulting in 33,000 tonnes of oil lost; 86% of this amount was spilt in just 10 incidents.
In terms of the volume of oil spilt, the figures for a particular year may be severely distorted by a single large incident. This is clearly illustrated by incidents such as ATLANTIC EMPRESS (1979), 287,000 tonnes spilt; CASTILLO DE BELLVER (1983), 252,000 tonnes spilt and ABT SUMMER (1991), 260,000 tonnes spilt.
Causes of Large Oil Spills
In the period 1970 to 2015, 50% of large spills occurred while the vessels were underway in open water; allisions, collisions and groundings accounted for 59% of the causes for these spills. These same causes accounted for an even higher percentage of incidents when the vessel was underway in inland or restricted waters, being linked to some 99% of spills.