Oil spill preparedness plan

Marine oil pollution prevention plan

Marine oil spill preparedness plan

Oil spills at sea affect not only the environment but also public health.

These environmental disasters happen much more frequently than we think. Preparedness, monitoring and recovery and clean-up measures are absolutely necessary and must be regulated by government.

In Spain, international oil spill response regulations (OPRC convention) as well as a protocol relating to hazardous and noxious substances (OPRC-HNS) are in application.

Preparedness plans help those handling and transporting oil to be prepared for spills and to keep them under control when disaster strikes, whether it be on a large or small scale.

Marine oil spill preparedness plan
  • Why do oil spills happen?
  • What is the protocol in cases of oil or hazardous and potentially noxious substance (HNS) spills?
  • Are there fines for polluting the sea?
  • What does the private sector contribute to oil spill response?
  • Glossary
ht 16 | Oil spill preparedness plan Markleen | Soluciones a derrames en el medio marino, industria y otros sectores

Why do oil spills happen?

Every day, all over the world, thousands of loading, offloading, handling and transfer operations involving crude oil, dangerous chemicals and hydrocarbons of various types take place.

Because of this the risk of an accident causing a spill in the sea is greatly multiplied in ports, harbours, refineries, oil rigs and on vessels.

It is therefore vital to have safety protocols in place for marine pollution response covering the environmental in general, nearby coastlines and the health of those living locally.

Protocol and prevention plan

OPRC convention and HNS protocol.
Practically the same in all countries – it is a planning and preparedness guide for oil spill response at sea which defines the capabilities and resources required.

Incident reports

On ships and civilian aircraft and in ports, oil handling and offshore facilities the captain or manager must alert the crew and report the incident as soon as possible to the nearest coastal state or to the state under whose jurisdiction they belong.

The state affected shall then assess the incident in order to categorise it and notify neighbouring states.

Oil spill preparedness and response

A competent authority and the national points of contact for handling communications shall be designated.
A National Contingency Plan shall be established which shall set out the steps for recovery and clean-up as well as regulate relations between the public and private sectors.


Both parties shall provide technical assistance in the training of personnel, handling of spill clean-up equipment and guaranteeing the availability of suitable technology via the IMO’s integrated technical cooperation programme http://www.imo.org/es/OurWork/TechnicalCooperation/Paginas/Default.aspx

What are the fines for sea pollution?

The law is based on the principle of positive and negative incentives: positive incentives being “the provider is rewarded”, and negative incentives being “the polluter pays”.

When the process is over a financial assessment shall be made of the effects of the oil spill and what resources have been used for recovery and clean-up. We need to remember that following the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 off the U.S. coast, around 3.4 billion dollars were paid in fines.

In Spain the same principle is applied, and in fact it is obligatory to return the polluted habitat to its natural state. If the company responsible for the pollution is unable to do so, it will be obliged to pay a fine or request the services of a clean-up company.

These fines do not just affect companies which cause oil spills in the sea, but also regularly affect industries which are responsible for spills into rivers and lakes.

In fact, unfortunately, one of the European Union’s largest sources of income is environmental taxation.

In the Wake of Disaster | Retro Report | The New York Times

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

What does the private sector contribute to oil spill response?

Cooperation between private sector companies such as shipping companies, ship owners, oil spill monitoring, recovery and clean-up equipment manufacturers, as well as fishing vessel operators, is vital to obtain optimum results in the shortest time period. The relationship between public administration and the private sector must be ongoing, not just when an incident happens, with both parties permanently prepared to offer a valid response when faced with a disaster.

Private sector cooperation in these cases is completely necessary.

Glossary of terms

  • OPRC convention. International Convention on Oil Spill Preparedness, Response and Co-operation
  • OPRC-HNS Protocol. Protocol on Preparedness, Response and Co-operation to pollution incidents by Hazardous and Noxious Substances.
  • IMO. International Maritime Organization. http://www.imo.org/es/