ISU members attended 252 salvage incidents in 2017, preventing oil, bunkers, refined products, containers, chemicals and bulk cargo pollutants entering marine environments
Salvage companies, including tug operators, saved 3.4M tonnes of pollution from being discharged into the world’s oceans in 2017, up from nearly 2.7M tonnes in 2016, according to figures from the International Salvage Union (ISU). This included 1.4M tonnes of bulk cargo and around 0.8M tonnes of crude oil that was prevented from entering the sea from damaged ships.
Prevention was through removing grounded ships to save marine environments and towing damaged vessels to safe locations to prevent them from causing collisions or pollution.
These figures come from the ISU’s survey of its members into 2017 pollution prevention activity. In total, 252 salvage incidents were reportedly dealt with by ISU members in 2017, up from 213 in 2016.
“After saving life, protection of the marine environment is the priority in all salvage operations,” said ISU president Charo Coll at an ISU conference in London in March. She explained that this survey demonstrates how ISU members “have helped to protect the marine environment from potential damage”.
By far the largest proportion of the pollution prevention was from salvage projects involving bulk carrier cargo, mainly ores, which was 1.4M tonnes. This represents 42% of pollution prevention in 2017 and is significantly up from around 859,530 tonnes prevented in 2016.
Around 23% of the pollution saved from entering global oceans was crude oil, which was estimated by ISU members to be 798,620 tonnes in 2017, up from 705,150 tonnes in 2016.
Increasing sizes of container ships and their risk of becoming involved in maritime accidents means salvors prevented 45,650 containers weighing 684,800 tonnes from entering oceans in 2017. This is compared with 21,220 containers with an equivalent weight of 318,350 tonnes in 2016*.
Other pollutants, such as bunkers, chemicals and oil products make up smaller proportions of prevented pollution. The amount of prevented refined oil product pollution dropped dramatically year-on-year with 134,490 tonnes prevented in 2017, compared with 544,740 in 2016.
Ms Coll thinks it is important to calculate the amount of pollution prevented through salvage as it reminds shipping, governments and non-governmental organisations of the importance of salvage companies and tugowners.
“It only takes one major incident to cause an environmental disaster so it is worth considering what might have occurred in some of these cases if there had not been a salvor available and willing to intervene,” she said.
Since 1994, when the first survey was conducted, ISU members have provided services to casualty vessels that were carrying a total of 28.2M tonnes of potential pollutants.
* These estimates are based on a nominal weight of 15 tonnes/TEU
More details and data will be published in the upcoming issue of Tug Technology & Business.