Accidental and illegal discharges of oil by ships at sea
This indicator is no longer being regularly updated
Assessment made on 01 Jan 2002
ClassificationTransport (Primary theme)
Coasts and seas
- TERM 010
Policy issue: Eliminate pollution by persistent oils and prohibit illegal discharges.
The number of detected illegal oil discharges from shipping decreased in the North Sea and remained stable in the Baltic Sea. No surveillance is conducted over the Mediterranean and Black Sea, but there are indications that these seas are heavily polluted by illegal oil discharges.
Despite the fact that pollution from oil spills on a world-wide scale has been reduced by 60 % since the 70's, major & accidental; oil tanker spills (i.e. those greater than 20 000 tonnes) still occur at irregular intervals in EU waters.
More oil is released into seas by illegal discharges than by shipping accidents. Operational discharges by ships are prohibited in the North Sea, Baltic Sea, Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea ï¿½ all International Maritime Organization (IMO) ï¿½special areasï¿½. Under the Bonn Agreement, North Sea states carry out aerial surveillance as an aid to detecting and combating pollution and to prevent violations of anti-pollution regulations. The Helsinki Convention established an aerial surveillance over the Baltic Sea and nine countries participate in this, including four ACs: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. The number of detected illegal oil spills decreased in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. The implementation of Directive 2000/59/EC requiring Member States to set up adequate port reception facilities for ship-generated waste and cargo residues will help to decrease the occurrence of illegal discharges in seas.
No aerial surveillance is in place for the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. This is worrying as much of the Black Sea is severely polluted with oil ï¿½ especially near ports and river mouths ï¿½ and oil pollution along shipping lanes in the Black Sea is heavy. Hydrocarbon pollution in the French and Italian Mediterranean areas of responsibility exceeds 200 slick occurrences per year. But the data are available only at national level and not commonly reported under the Barcelona Convention. No information on Cyprus, Malta or the Mediterranean coast of Turkey is available.
In spite of being a smaller source of maritime oil pollution, major accidental oil tanker spills (i.e. those greater than 7 tonnes) have occurred sporadically in EU waters over the past decade, totalling 830.000 tonnes of spilled oil. No data were obtained for the ACs. The Commissionï¿½s Erika I and II packages ï¿½ created shortly after the Erika disaster in December 1999 ï¿½ aim to improve ship inspection, phase out single-hull oil tankers from EU waters by 2015, and establish a Maritime Safety Agency, which will support the Commission in stepping up maritime safety.
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This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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