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.

Number of large spills (>700 tonnes) from 1970 to 2015 / Image Credti: ITOPF

Number of large spills (>700 tonnes) from 1970 to 2015 / Image Credti: ITOPF

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.

Quantities of oil spilt 7 tonnes and over (rounded to nearest thousand) 1970 to 2015 / Image Credit: ITOPF

Quantities of oil spilt 7 tonnes and over (rounded to nearest thousand) 1970 to 2015 / Image Credit: ITOPF

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.  

 

Seaborne oil trade and number of tanker spills 7 tonnes and over,  1970 to 2014 (Crude and Oil Product *) * Product vessels of 60,000 DWT and above	. Barges excluded. / Image Credit: ITOPF

Seaborne oil trade and number of tanker spills 7 tonnes and over,
1970 to 2014 (Crude and Oil Product *)
* Product vessels of 60,000 DWT and above . Barges excluded. / Image Credit: ITOPF

Large Spills

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:

Spills 7 tonnes and over per decade showing the influence of a relatively small number of comparatively large spills on the overall figure / Image Credit: ITOPF

Spills 7 tonnes and over per decade showing the influence of a relatively small number of comparatively large spills on the overall figure / Image Credit: ITOPF

  • 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.

Incidence of spills >700 tonnes by operation at time of incident and primary cause of spill, 1970-2015. (One bunkering incident occurred in this size category but has not been included in this figure) / Image Credit: ITOPF

Incidence of spills >700 tonnes by operation at
time of incident and primary cause of spill, 1970-2015.
(One bunkering incident occurred in this size category but has not been included in this figure) / Image Credit: ITOPF

 

Source: ITOPF