Here’s the good news. Statistics just released by the International Tanker Oil Pollution Federation indicate that the downward trend in oil spills from tankers continues. The average number of large oil spills from tankers, ie greater than 700 tonnes, has progressively reduced and since 2010 averages 1.7 per year.
In 2016, one tanker incident which resulted in a spill of greater than 700 tonnes of gasoline and diesel was recorded in the Gulf of Mexico. Four medium-sized spills (7-700 tonnes) of fuel oil were also reported in 2016. The total amount of oil lost to the environment through tanker incidents in 2016 was approximately 6,000 tonnes, the majority of which can be attributed to the incident in the Gulf of Mexico.
The ongoing reduction in the amount of oil spilt through accidents involving tankers is, as ITOPF points out, encouraging news for tanker operators and governments alike as they continue to work to improve standards of operations in sea-borne oil transportation. Today, some 99.99% of crude oil transported by sea arrives safely at its destination.
These achievements are being rightly celebrated at an exhibition themed ‘50 years of government and industry working together to address the risk of oil pollution from ships’ in London at IMO headquarters that runs through to 7 July.
It features a timeline from pre-1967 to the present day and showcases how improved safety of navigation, ship construction, training and risk reduction, preparedness and response have contributed to the improved safety record. It also explains how a robust system of compensation and liability for ship-source oil spills is now in place and that appropriate funding mechanisms exist to finance an immediate and efficient response and compensate those affected.
Against this backdrop we must consider the wider safety picture.
Looking back on the last six months, International Maritime Risk Rating Agency (IMRRA) screened 8,464 tankers representing 429,967,130 dwt. It identified 1,102 tankers that were operating with higher risk. Of the 8,464 vessels assessed, 162 were involved in an incident in the six-month period.
IMRRA’s latest statistics show that in December there were 1,370 tankers operating with above average risk. This is a moderate reduction on the 1,595 tankers operating with above average risk recorded in November, which was a six-month high. The latest statistics reveal that yet again fire safety issues were the primary tanker deficiency recorded by port state control. December's statistics also showed that of the 1,579 tankers assessed most were 20,000-50,000 dwt and aged between 5-10 years.
So what’s the bottom line? The tanker industry and its partners have made impressive gains in safety. A visit to the exhibition at IMO is testament to this fact and well-worth a visit.