Zero large spills for oil tanker industry in 2012.

Updated figures for 2012 show that the tanker industry suffered zero large oil spills - defined as above 700 tonnes - for the first year since systematic records began in 1970. With just seven “medium-sized” spills, defined as seven to 700 tonnes, the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF) concludes that the industry put around 1,000 tonnes of oil in the world's seas last year - the lowest figure on record.

The vast majority of spills are under seven tonnes but inconsistent reporting around the globe means they are not included.

This record of continuing improvement comes against a background of a steady increase in tonne-miles performed by the fleet since the mid-1980's.

The 1970s saw average annual oil spillages above 300,000 tonnes. That was cut in the 1980s to around a third of the 1970s figure as new safety and pollution prevention rules were introduced. The 1990s languished at roughly the same level before the downward trend was resumed in the 2000s with the annual average dropping to around 20,000 tonnes.

ITOPF warns that the figures may not be 100% reliable, but they are compiled not just from published reports but also reporting by tanker owners and their insurers.

The organisation was set up as a voluntary not-for-profit in 1968 by tanker owners in the wake of the Torrey Canyon spill. Its purpose was to administer the owners voluntary spill compensation scheme, Tovalop. That came to an end in 1997, and ITOPF now provides technical expertise for oil and chemical spill response.

In a commentary on the figures, London broker EA Gibson points out that crude and products trade has almost doubled in the past 25 years. However it warns that measures introduced to lower bunker consumption, slow steaming and derating engines, may possibly increase the risks if abused recalling that the Braer lost power in heavy seas and grounded on the Shetland Islands.

By Ian Middleton from  London.





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