Laws in Place to Prevent & Clean Up Oil Spills: Marine Safety & Responsibility

Laws in Place to Prevent & Clean Up Oil Spills: Marine Safety & Responsibility
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We all know that oil spills have adverse effects on environment and human life. For this reason there are strict rules and regulations marine vessels have to abide by to ensure the ocean stays free of pollution.

Design Considerations

It was general practice on many tanker ships to take water into the cargo tanks to provide stability. However, when this ballast water was discharged back into the sea it would have traces of oil in it. Segregated ballast tanks (SBT) are provided as the solution to this problem.

SBTs exempt the need for tank washing and also reduce oil water mixtures. They are completely separated from cargo tanks and have totally different pumping and piping systems. Moreover, they are not in any way connected to the main cargo oil or fuel oil system, so the water cannot have any oil contamination.

Double hull design is found in almost all ships today, as it is a mandatory requirement put forth by all the environmental protection agencies. Double hulls limit the outflow of oil into the sea in the case of collision or damage due to stranding or grounding.

Reception Facilities

On all oil loading terminals and repair ports, special provision should be provided for receiving residues (sludge) and oily mixtures from ships. This is done with a view to prevent emergency or accidental discharge of residue or oily mixtures into the sea in case of collision or operational flaws. These services are often chargeable and either the port authority looks after it or assigns it to a private service provider.

Reporting Oil Spills

In the case of damage to the ship or equipment, oil may sometimes spill. Another reason ships may need to purposely spill oil is to protect the safety of ship or save life at sea. Whenever an oil spill happens the coastal state or authority that is nearest to the area of accident needs to be informed. Any contacts representing interest in the ship are also required to be informed about the spillage and any other appropriate details.

In addition to this, detailed reports should be presented to both the nearest coastal state or port contact, along with the contacts that own the ship.

The Oil Pollution Act of 1990


The Exxon Valdez oil spill was the reason for the establishment of the oil pollution act in 1990. This incident was a disastrous accident for both marine and human life, and its detrimental effects are still visible today. This incident roused United States of America to take solid and drastic steps to prevent marine oil pollution. Agencies like The National Oceanic and Atmospheric administration (NOAA) and the environmental protection agency (EPA) were formed and actively put into action as a result of this incident.

This law asks for both the restoration of the natural resources that are affected and also liabilities for the lost lives in the accident. Under this maritime law the offender has to make provision to bring the natural resources back to their original state. Whoever is responsible also has to make provisions for the compensation of natural resources and the lives lost.

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The NOAA takes up the task of scrutinizing the intensity of accident, by assessing the pre-accident condition, graveness of the accident, and the compensations it requires. On the basis of this assessment, it prepares a restoration plan, which the offender has to follow and abide to. It also constantly monitors the restoration process and makes sure that it is completed in the stipulated time. A huge amount of money needs to be paid by the offender as compensation in addition to the restoration plan.

EPA gives equal emphasis on the prevention of oil spill. This agency requires that the ship’s crew is appropriately trained. It also requires all modern ships and tankers to have a double hull and also have an effective contingency and vessel response plan in addition to properly trained crew.