Two large oil spills and four medium spills from tankers were recorded in 2017, figures from the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF) show.
The first large spill (over 7 tonnes in size) occurred in June when a tanker Rama 2 sank in the Indian Ocean with over 5,000 tonnes of oil on board. The second incident involved a tanker Agia Zoni II which sank off the coast of Greece in September spilling about 700 tonnes of oil.
Of the four medium-sized spills, two were recorded in January 2017 in South Asia and Southeast Asia; both resulted from collisions and involved the release of bunker fuel.
A third spill was reported in East Asia in August. This also involved bunker fuel and resulted from a vessel grounding in bad weather. The fourth medium-sized spill occurred in October in the USA.
The total volume of oil lost to the environment recorded in 2017 was approximately 7,000 tonnes, the majority of which can be attributed to the large spill that occurred in the Indian Ocean in June, ITOPF said.
“While increased tanker movements might imply increased risk, it is encouraging to observe that the downward trend in oil spills continues despite an overall increase in oil trading over the period,” the organization said.
Looking at large spills, the yearly average, which was around 25 in the 1970s has reduced to less than 2 since 2010.
In the eight-year period 2010-2017 there have been 53 spills of 7 tonnes and over, resulting in 47,000 tonnes of oil lost; 80 percent of this amount was spilled in just 10 incidents.
In the period 1970 to 2017, 50 percent of large spills occurred while the vessels were underway in open water; allisions, collisions and groundings accounted for 59 percent of the causes of these spills. The same causes account for an even higher percentage of incidents when the vessel was underway in inland or restricted waters, being linked to some 99 pct of spills.
“Despite an overall increase in oil trading over the past few decades, it is reassuring to note that oil spills involving tankers have decreased significantly meaning that some 99.99 pct of oil transported by sea arrives safely at its destination. However, accidents still happen, as demonstrated on January 6, by the tragic incident that occurred off the coast of China involving the oil tanker Sanchi. Learning lessons from incidents such as these will assist tanker owners and governments to continue to work together to reach the highest level of safety and environmental stewardship,” ITOPF said.
Image Courtesy: ITOPF