IPIECA report series: a guide to contingency planning for oil spills on water



IPIECA, London, UK


This Guide is provided by IPIECA to assist industry and governments in the preparation of oil spill contingency plans. It focuses on spills on water, primarily from ships, but also contains information relevant to spills from exploration and production activities.

The tiered response

Oil risks and the responses they require should be classified according to the size of spill and its proximity to a company’s operating facility. This leads to the concept of a ‘Tiered response’ to oil spills.

A contingency plan should cover each Tier and be directly related to the company’s potential spill scenarios.

The Tiered response:

Tier 1: Operational-type spills that may occur at or near a company’s own facilities as a consequence of its own activities. An individual company would typically provide resources to respond at this Tier.

Tier 2: A larger spill in the vicinity of a company’s facilities where resources from other companies, industries and possibly government agencies can be called in on a
mutual aid basis.

Tier 3: larger spills where substantial further resources will be required and support from national or international cooperative stockpile may be necessary.

Cooperation with government agencies

Governments are encouraged to ratify the IMO International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation, 1990 (the OPRC Convention), and to develop their own laws and procedures to prepare for, and respond to, oil spills.

It is crucial that industry works with governments to develop a clear, common interpretation of the national requirements and responsibilities of government agencies, industry and others.

Information gathering and risk assessment

Historic data, oil properties, climate, local meteorology and environmental sensitivities are important factors in assessing the risk, behaviour, fate and potential consequences of spilled oil.

Oil properties

The base properties of an oil will determine the physical and chemical changes that occur when it is spilled onto water, and will account for its persistence and toxicity.
It is recommended that organizations prepare a list of the properties of oils commonly traded or produced in their area.

Current and wind data

Local current data and weather forecasts will assist in determining oil spill response strategies and allow prediction of the movements of a slick.

Sea conditions

Sea conditions influence the behaviour of spilled oil and determine effectiveness of response techniques.

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