When it comes to mixing oil and water, oceans suffer from far more than an occasional devastating spill. Disasters make headlines, but hundreds of millions of gallons of oil quietly end up in the seas every year, mostly from non-accidental sources
Large spills–even though a relatively minor source of ocean oil pollution–can be devastating. The same amount of oil can do more damage in some areas than others. Coral reefs and mangroves are more sensitive to oil than sandy beaches or sea-grass beds; intertidal zones are the most sensitive. Crude oil is most likely to cause problems §.
Because human error causes 46% of oil spills and 34 % of equipment failure, thefirst strategy must be that of prevention. However, assuming that in the particular case prevention has not been effective the remaining strategic options are:
Contain and Recover
Containment and Recovery removes the pollutant from the environment by mechanical means. This strategy has the following characteristics:
High Capital Investment
Need for Logistics Support
Effectiveness Sharply Impacted by Weather
Encounter Rate Very Important
Need for Disposal
The usual method of containment and recovery involves deploying booms to prevent the oil from spreading and to concentrate it. Skimmers are then used to recover the concentrated oil. It is then transferred to temporary storage and eventually to a permanent storage/treatment facility. When employing this strategy it is necessary to consider the following questions:
Can the operation be mounted close to the source of the spill so that the spread of oil can be contained?
Can sufficient vessels be mobilized to operate the appropriate numbers and types of booms and skimmers?
Are vessels with adequate onboard oil storage capaci…