The average number of tanker oil spills continues to decline despite some individual incidents increasing the volume of spilled oil.
The frequency of oil spills from tankers continued to decline in 2018 according to statistics released by the International Tanker Owners' Pollution Federation (ITOPF).
The oil spills recorded by ITOPF include those from tankers -- including combined carriers, FPSOs and barges -- but it did not include oil spills caused by acts of war. Spills are recorded as small (< 7 tonnes), medium (7 to 700 tonnes), and large (>700 tonnes).
In the ITOPF analysis, the average number of oil spills recorded as seven tonnes or greater has steadily been declining over the last 50 years to around six per year, but one-off incidents like Sanchi in 2018 can create a spike in the statistics (see chart).
According to ITOPF, the estimated total amount of oil lost to the environment through tanker incidents in 2018 was approximately 116,000 tonnes, the majority of which can be attributed to the Sanchi incident, a spill of non-persistent oil with what some experts say is a significantly lower environmental impacts compared to crude oil.
In 2018, three spills of more than 700 tonnes were reported. ITOPF attended two of these incidents to provide technical advice, both in East Asia.
ITOPF is the sponsor of the Tanker Shipping & Trade Environmental Award 2018, which was presented to Teekay and Wärtsilä Marine Solutions.
Another potential oil spill incident occurred in Asia earlier this week. Is there a particular safety issue in Asia, and what are the remedies? Voice your opinion at the Asian Tanker Conference in Singapore in February.