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Oil spill preparedness

The Oil Spill Working Group (OSWG) was established in 1987 and serves as a key international industry forum to help improve oil spill contingency planning and response around the world.

The Issue IPIECA activities Member actions

The issue

Oil spills remain one of the most serious environmental risks for the oil and shipping industries as the environment and livelihoods can be significantly affected in the event of a major incident. Although large spills from tankers and oil industry operations have become less frequent in the last few decades, accidents still happen. While the initial focus must be on prevention, the oil industry also gives high priority to developing capability to respond to spills.

When oil spill accidents do happen, prompt action minimizes the impact. The oil industry therefore works closely with national and local governments to plan and rehearse a coordinated response to oil spill incidents.


IPIECA activities

The Oil Spill Working Group aims to improve oil spill preparedness and response around the world by:

  • Enabling members to exchange information and best practices
  • Supporting industry and government co-operation at all levels
  • Encouraging ratification and implementation of relevant international conventions
  • Promoting the principle of ‘Net Environmental Benefit Analysis’ and the ‘Tiered Response’ approach to designing response strategies
  • Developing and communicating the industry’s views and activities to external audiences

The OSWG is currently working on:

One of the most important aspects of the Oil Spill Working Group's role  is to collaborate with key partners. For more information please see our section on 'Working together'.

The OSWG works diligently on preparedness and response issues, but preventing oil spills is even more important. The concerted effort between regulatory authorities and the oil and shipping industries to develop preventative measures has, over the last few decades, led to a significant reduction in the amount of oil spilt.

Member action

  • Action on oil spills: the IMO/IPIECA Global Initiative: Formally launched in 1996, the Global Initiative is an umbrella programme under which the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the oil industry (through IPIECA) and other partners are working together to promote global oil spill preparedness by encouraging and facilitating the development and implementation of oil spill contingency plans and working to increase the ratification and implementation of oil spill related international conventions.
  • Tier 3 centres: The oil industry has established strategically sited Tier 3 response centres worldwide over the years, which offer the most effective and efficient means of establishing large quantities of specialized resources held in readiness to respond to a spill. These have similar features, including clarity on their geographic area of response, funding mechanisms, access by membership or through contracted means, and the provision of both specialist equipment and trained people to fulfil a variety of roles and functions. In all cases, when they are called upon, Tier 3 resources are designed to be mobilized rapidly and integrated effectively into any local response already under way. Some of the centres the industry has established include Oil Spill Response, and Clean Caribbean and the Americas.
  • Oil spill response exercise in Latin American and Caribbean region: The coordinated efforts of the multiple participants in the International Mobilization, Preparedness and Response Exercise (MOBEX) in the Central American Republic of Panama in 2007 helped raise awareness and improve capabilities for responding rapidly and effectively to marine oil spills. The next exercise (MOBEX Amazonia 2010) will be held in Manaus, Brazil, from November 30-December 3 2010.