Illegal discharges of oil at sea
Assessment made on 01 May 2004
ClassificationWater (Primary theme)
- WHS 012
Policy issue: Are we eliminating illegal discharges from ships and oil installations?
Aerial surveillance in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea shows different behaviour. In the North Sea, for the 1990-2000 period, the number of oils slicks has been declining steadily. The highest frequencies in 1997 and 1998 correspond to a methodological artefact due to the reporting of very small oil spills (less than 1 m3) by one country. It is worth mentioning that The North Sea is designated an IMO/MARPOL special area only since 1 August 1999. In the Baltic Sea, the number of oil spills is rather constant, showing poor change in shipping habits of de-ballasting. No data on hydrocarbon pollution is available for the north-east Atlantic Ocean. Hydrocarbon pollution in the French and Italian Mediterranean areas of responsibility exceed 200 slick occurrences per year. But the data are available only at national level and not commonly reported under the Barcelona convention. There is no other report for the Mediterranean sea, where there are about 40 oil-related sites (pipeline terminals, refineries, offshore platforms, etc.). Much of the Black Sea is severely polluted with oil, especially near ports and river mouths, probably as a result of heavy boat traffic in the Black Sea; oil pollution along shipping lanes is especially heavy and is suggested to be caused by de-ballasting and bilge discharges. Using a different but promising method of surveillance, over the Mediterranean Sea, The JRC, in collaboration with DG ENV/B4, published in 2001 a general study on the monitoring of illicit vessel discharge in the year 1999. The study reviews 1600 satellite images and reports 1638 spills.
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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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