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Accidental and illegal discharges of oil by ships at sea

Indicator Fact Sheet (Deprecated)
Topics: ,

Assessment made on  01 Jan 2001

Generic metadata


Transport Transport (Primary theme)

DPSIR: Pressure


Indicator codes
  • TERM 010
Geographic coverage:

Policy issue:  Eliminate pollution by persistent oils and prohibit illegal discharges.

Key messages

  • Major accidental oil spills from maritime shipping still occur at irregular intervals in the EU, but more oil slicks come from illegal discharges


Key assessment

Pollution by oil spills worldwide has been reduced by 60 % since the 1970s. In the EU, major accidental oil spills (>20 000 tonnes) still occur at irregular intervals.

Oil spills from shipping - illegal discharges or from accidents - are an important source of pollution in sea areas. Worldwide estimates of oil pollution of sea areas show that transport contributed 22 % to total spills in 1973 (1.3 million tonnes out of 5.9 million tonnes), and 34 % in 1981 (1.1 million tonnes out of 3.2 million tonnes). Between 1973 and 1981, the quantities spilled during accidents were always below those spilled during operations. In 1989 transport-related oil spills were only a third of the 1973 estimate.

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