Top 3 Reasons for A Drastic Decline in Oil Spills


It is important for Christian to make one thing clear in the beginning: as long as we need oil for heat and power, we will need to transport it. “And whenever you transport something, there is a risk of accident,” he says.

Christian Ingvorsen is a marine engineer who was educated in Maersk’s apprentice system in the 1980s. At the start of the 1990s, he worked for Roulunds, which manufactured containment boom systems for oil response and was eventually acquired by DESMI. He also helped write the “First Responder Oil Spill Response” manual and do live courses of training in oil response for Denmark and the Baltic countries for the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

So, let us start with some good news. Ship-based oil spills have reduced drastically in the last five decades. In the 1970s, the average number of spills per year was 78.8. By the 2010s it was 6.2. That is according to the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Ltd. (ITOPF), a non-profit organisation established on behalf of the world’s shipowners to promote an effective response to marine spills of oil and other hazardous substances.

Christian Ingvorsen says there are three main reasons we have 12 times fewer oil spills today compared to 50 years ago.

First is that today’s vessels are better, with a double hull. “Second, you have standard operational procedures now. When I was young, you didn’t have any manual to tell you what to do and in what steps. You just had the guy next to you tell you, ‘Do this and do that.’ You didn’t get any proper training. So the risk for you doing something wrong was much bigger that time. Thirdly the entire world has changed its attitude towards safety and being 100 % concentrated on your professional duties”

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