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Accidental and illegal discharges of oil by ships at sea

Indicator Fact Sheet (Deprecated)expired
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This content has been archived on 07 May 2015, reason: No more updates will be done

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 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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