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Maritime Forum

Map of the week – Oil spill incidents and response vessels

The map of the week features historical oil spill incidents and oil spill response vessels.

Even though we are making efforts to move away from fossil fuels, the world economy is still very dependent on oil. In 2016, the European Union consumed over 1.6 billion tonnes of petroleum products for energy, transportation and manufacturing1. Over 1.4 billion tonnes was imported through pipelines, railways and oil tankers1. Given the massive volume of oil that is being transported, it is not surprising that accidents have resulted in large oil spills. In the marine environment, these oil spills are very harmful to life, especially to marine mammals and seabirds. As oil is less dense than salt water, it floats and forms a thin film at the sea surface called an oil slick. The floating oil sticks to the fur and feathers of marine mammals and birds, eliminating their insulating and water repelling properties and exposing them to the cold and harsh environment2. Furthermore, they can become poisoned by swallowing the oil in an effort to clean themselves. Our map of the week features the location and volume (in tonnes) of the major oil spill incidents around the world up to 2010.

Fortunately, the EU is leading the way in implementing rules for maritime safety and environmental protection3 and the number of large oil spills globally has decreased dramatically4. Furthermore, the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) has set up a network of marine pollution response vessels that allows rapid and efficient clean up of oil spills. Our map of the week also features the ports where oil spill response vessels are available as well as their capacity to store polluted water (in cubic meters).

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The data in this map were provided by EMSA.