Oil Pollution Phenomenon - Sea Ports and Near Coastal Facilities

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Oil Pollution Phenomenon - Sea Ports and Near Coastal Facilities

Oil Spills

Events that have occurred in the last decade specific to oil spills that have occurred near seaports and in/around coastal facilities include the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Chennai oil spill, Rena oil spill, Texas oil spill, Tauranga harbor oil spill, Guarello Island oil spill.

Deepwater Horizon

  • The Deepwater Horizon oil spill (BP Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill) happened on April 20, 2010. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, this is the largest oil spill in the "history of marine oil drilling operations."
  • According to Marine Insight, "the accident began after a spill from a seafloor oil gusher, leading to the explosion of the BP’s oil rig, Deepwater Horizon, in its Macondo Prospect."
  • About "4 million barrels of oil" flowed into the Gulf of Mexico from the damaged Macondo for about three months.
  • According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an "$8.8 billion settlement for restoration was reached in 2016." Research carried out by the Journal of Corporate Accounting & Finance in 2018 estimated the ultimate cost to BP in the United States to be $144.89 billion. This included global settlement costs, contingent liabilities, legal fees, and other hidden costs.

Chennai Oil Spill

  • According to the Hindu, "two ships, the Dawn Kanchipuram and the BW Maple collided off Ennore on January 28 causing an oil spill of 251.46 tonnes."
  • The oil spill affected about 35km off Chennai's coastline.
  • Fatigue among crew members and human error have been cited as the primary causes of the accident.
  • Details regarding the rehabilitation cost, cleanup costs, rebuilding costs, and restitution were not disclosed.

Rena Oil Spill

  • Rena Oil Spill was caused by the MV Rena shipwreck near Port Tauranga in New Zealand on October 5, 2011. The MV Rena grounded on the Astrolabe Reef.
  • According to the New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, "the Rena oil spill was by far the worst experienced in New Zealand in terms of volume spilled."
  • The cost for cleaning up the oil, salvaging the container debris, and other components of the ship was estimated to be over NZ$660 million ($463 million).

Texas Oil Spill

  • On March 25, 2014, two vessels collided causing "168,000 gallons of oil to spill into the Port of Houston" in Galveston, Texas.
  • Details regarding the rehabilitation cost, cleanup costs, rebuilding costs, and restitution were not disclosed.

Tauranga Harbor Oil Spill

  • About "2,000 liters of oily sludge is believed to have been discharged from a tanker truck" on March 30, 2020, at Sulphur Point in Tauranga.
  • Details regarding the rehabilitation costs, cleanup costs, rebuilding costs, and restitution were not disclosed.

Guarello Island Oil Spill

  • The Third Naval Zone reported a spill of about 40,000 liters of oil on July 27, 2019, at Guarello Island terminal in the Magallanes region.
  • Details regarding the cause of the spill have not been reported. The Chilean Navy launched an investigation after the incident.
  • Details regarding the rehabilitation cost, cleanup costs, rebuilding costs, and restitution were not disclosed.

Research Strategy

In order to attempt to find information about rehabilitation costs, cleanup costs, rebuilding costs, improvement costs, and restitution, we first located facilities and players involved in the incident. We then searched for this information on news outlets, industry reports, and websites of the players involved. However, after completing an exhaustive search, we did not find any details regarding the rehabilitation costs, cleanup costs, rebuilding costs, and restitution for the Tauranga Harbour oil spill, Texas oil spill, Guarello Island oil spill, and Chennai oil spill.

International Regulations

International regulations regarding oil spills include the Stockholm Declaration, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL).

Stockholm Declaration

  • The 1972 declaration that was adopted at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (UNCHE) in Stockholm had special sections on marine pollution.
  • Principal 7 of the Stockholm Declaration indicates that "states shall take all possible steps to prevent pollution of the seas by substances that create hazards to human health, harm living resources, and marine life, damage amenities or interfere with other legitimate uses of the sea."
  • Principle 22 of the Stockholm Declaration addresses "the issue of liability and compensation for marine pollution damage requiring from states further cooperation in order to develop rules of international law regarding this issue."
  • The establishment of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was one of the major impacts of the Stockholm Declaration. UNEP adopted action plans to manage marine pollution from a regional basis starting with the Mediterranean region.

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

  • The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) replaced the Geneva Conventions of 1958. Articles 5(1) and 5(7) of the Geneva Convention contained provisions for protecting oceans against oil pollution.
  • According to the United Nations Treaty Collection, the convention has been ratified by 168 state parties.
  • Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) regarding oil spills are under Part XII of the convention.
  • Article 192 requires countries to "protect the marine and coastal environment and its resources." Article 193 also stresses the duty of countries to preserve and protect the marine environment.
  • Article 195 and 197 requires countries "not to transfer damage or hazards or transform one form of pollution into another and to cooperate with each other on a global or regional basis."
  • Article 207 requires countries to protect the "marine environment against pollution from land-based sources."
  • Article 235 "proclaims liability of the states for their international obligations concerning the preservation and protection of the marine environment" and "requires the states to ensure the possibility to obtain compensation or other relief in case of the damage caused by the pollution."

International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL)

  • The international community adopted a convention to prevent pollution from ships on 2 November 1973. This convention covered pollution by oil and other harmful substances.
  • Annex IV of the convention is "devoted to the prevention of pollution by spillage from ships."
  • The convention also "laid down the mechanism to check the seaworthiness of a ship by providing a framework for certification of ships with respect to safety and pollution compliance. Powers to inspect, detain and prosecute have been given to flag states and port states."

Liability for Oil Spills

  • International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage, 1969 (CLC 1969) and International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage, 1971 are the two conventions that provide a framework for compensation for oil spill damages.
  • Article III of the CLC 1969 "makes the owner of a ship strictly liable for the pollution damage caused by the discharge from the ship. The shipowner is liable even in the absence of any fault, for any damage by pollution caused by the oil. However, the shipowner can normally limit his financial liability up to an amount established according to the tonnage of the ship. This amount is guaranteed by his liability insurer. The liability insurance is compulsory."
  • The CLC's provisions apply only to waters of states that have accepted the CLC convention.
  • The International Oil Pollution Compensation (IOPC) Fund "becomes involved by providing supplementary compensation when the amount payable by the shipowner and his insurer is insufficient to cover all the damage."

Impact of International Regulations

  • The above international regulations have contributed to the development of legal position on oil pollution issues, "new developments in construction technology like, for example, improved tank stripping pumps, the load-on-top system, and other technological advances. All these preventive measures considerably reduced both vessel-source and offshore oil development pollution."
  • The regulations have also contributed to the reduction of oil pollution generated by ships.

Israel Oil Spill Regulations

  • Israel's petroleum regulations require drilling activities "to be carried out with due caution in order to prevent the uncontrollable release of gases and liquids, leakage into the ground, and penetration from one geological layer to another."
  • Firms conducting oil exploration/production are required to submit environmental reports that include a marine environment monitoring program, as well as an emergency response plan for oil pollution incidents. The response plans should be in accordance with Israel's National Contingency Plan for Preparedness and Response to Combating Marine Oil Pollution.
  • Implementation of submitted plans is continuously supervised by the Ministry of Environmental Protection. The ministry also reviews environmental management reports and determines conditions that are included in licenses and permits.
  • Holders of petroleum rights are also subjected to environmental requirements provided by other governmental bodies such as inter alia, Water Authority, the Interior Ministry, and Nature and Parks Authority.

OPRC 1990

  • Israel is a signatory to the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation (OPRC 1990) convention.
  • The convention requires coastal states to "establish measures for dealing with pollution incidents, either nationally or in co-operation with other countries." The convention also calls for the "establishment of stockpiles of oil spill combating equipment, holding exercises and development of detailed plans for dealing with pollution incidents."
  • In 2008, Israel's Ministerial Environment Committee adopted the proposal by Environmental Protection Minister for the National Contingency Plan for Preparedness and Response to Combating Marine Oil Pollution.


  • Israel is also a signatory to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL).
  • Israel has adopted Annexes III and V of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL).
  • Annex III contains requirements for issuing "detailed standards on packing, marking, labeling, documentation, stowage, quantity limitations, exceptions and notifications" while annex V specifies the manner of disposing of the garbage from ships.


  • According to Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the national and international regulations contributed to the significant reduction of marine pollution. In 1998, tar along Israel's Mediterranean beaches had reduced from "3.6 kg per meter in 1975 to less than 20 gm per meter."

Commercial Solutions for Detecting Oil Spill Phenomenon

Commercial solutions that exist regarding to detecting the oil spill phenomenon at or near seaports and coastal facilities include Radar technology and Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs).


  • Calm areas on the water can be detected by radar. Since oil reduces capillary waves on a water surface, it can be detected by radar.
  • Radar is a unique option for wide-area monitoring that can be used at any time of day or night, even in rainy or cloudy conditions. Satellite-borne radars are essential for delineating large spills and tracking ship and aircraft movements due to their regular overpass and high spatial resolution.
  • The majority of strategic oil spill mapping is now done with radar.
  • Radar-based oil spill detection systems are being used in seaports. An example of this is the port of Valdez in Alaska. Tankers in the port of Valdez are "escorted by a fleet of nine tugs operated by Edison-Chouest Offshore, which are equipped with a modern oil spill detection (OSD) system."
  • The systems allow operators on the shore-side to monitor data from these tugs in real-time.
  • An extensive search in the public domain did not find any use of radar technology by the ports and coastal facilities in Israel.

Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs)

  • Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs) also known as Autonomous Surface Vehicles (ASVs) are vehicles operating on water surfaces without a crew.
  • According to a study done by D. Liu, "in areas where oil spills frequently occur, such as coastal ports and oil drilling platform surroundings, the use of USV is seemingly more convenient when compared to traditional airborne and shipborne laser fluorosensors."
  • Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs) can be equipped with cameras/ laser fluorosensors for detecting/classifying oil.
  • USVs can carry out their functions in a variety of conditions and can also provide "precise information about the position of the slick on a continuous basis."
  • Facilities currently using USVs for detecting oil spills include the Port of Hamburg, Port of Amsterdam, and the Spanish Maritime Safety Agency.
  • Despite the Port of Gulf Port in Haifa using USVs to monitor the construction of the port and measuring stockpile, we were unable to find any indication of the use of USVs for oil spill detection in Israel.

Studies and Articles on Oil Spill Phenomenon

Spatio-Temporal Analysis of Oil Spill Impact and Recovery Pattern of Coastal Vegetation and Wetland Using Multispectral Satellite Landsat 8-OLI Imagery and Machine Learning Models

  • Here is the link to the experimental study.
  • The study "utilizes multispectral Landsat 8-OLI remote sensing imagery and machine learning models to assess the impacts of oil spills on coastal vegetation and wetland and monitor the recovery pattern of polluted vegetation and wetland in a coastal city."

A Review of Oil Spill Remote Sensing

  • Here is the link to the academic study.
  • The study was done by Merv Fingas and Carl E. Brown. It examines the technical aspects of "oil spill remote sensing" and the practical uses and challenges of using each technology.

Preparedness and Response of Oil Spill

  • Here is the link to the experimental study.
  • The study aimed at determining the success "of an action prepared at an oil terminal in Kemaman, Terengganu." The study analyzed the response process of the port in case of an oil spill.

Oil Spill Detection with Remote Sensors

  • Here is the link to the academic study.
  • The study that was done by Kristina Pilžis and Vaidotas Vaišis of Vilnius Gediminas Technical University reviews the advantages and possibilities of using various techniques of remote sensing and tracking oil spills.

Sensors, Features, and Machine Learning for Oil Spill Detection and Monitoring

  • Here is the link to the academic study.
  • The study reviews and analyzes "different sources of remotely sensed data and various components of ML classification systems for oil spill detection and monitoring."

Oil spill detection with the RADARSAT SAR in the waters of the Yellow and East China Sea

  • Here is the link to the academic study.
  • The study "presents the preliminary results of the oil spill observations with SAR in the Yellow and East China Sea."

Oil Spill Detection Using Machine Learning and Infrared Images

  • Here is the link to the academic study.
  • The article presents "a novel framework for detecting oil spills inside a port environment while using unmanned areal vehicles (UAV) and a thermal infrared (IR) camera."

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