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The success of a response to an oil spill incident is based on prior preparedness efforts as well as an understanding and working knowledge of the capabilities that make up the “response toolkit.” These capabilities can be used in different situations or simultaneously, depending on various factors, with varying levels of effectiveness. Further resources are available in the Oil Spill Prevention and Response website.

Surveillance and Modeling

Several capabilities form the surveillance and modelling strategies required for effective response to oil spills. Surveillance and modelling technologies have developed significantly over the last two decades, enabling improved response.

Title Format Type
Actimar - A review of models and metocean databases PDF Research report
Actimar - Recommendations on validation techniques PDF Research report
Battelle - Capabilities and Uses of Sensor-Equipped Ocean Vehicles for Subsea and Surface Detection and Tracking of Oil Spills  PDF Research report
Oceaneering - Capabilities and Uses of Sensor and Video Equipped Waterborne Surveillance-ROVs for Subsea Detection and Tracking of Oil Spills PDF Research report
OGC and RDI - Recommended practice for Common Operating Picture architecture for oil spill response  PDF Research report
Polar Imaging - An Assessment of Surface Surveillance Capabilities for Oil Spill Response using Airborne Remote Sensing PDF Research report
Polar Imaging - An Assessment of Surface Surveillance Capabilities for Oil Spill Response using Satelite Remote Sensing PDF Research report
Assessment of Surface Surveillance Capabilities for Oil Spill Response using Satelite Remote Sensing PDF Research report
Aerial observation of oil spills at sea PDF Good practice guidance
In-water surveillance of oil spills at sea PDF Good practice guidance
Oil spill monitoring and sampling PDF Good practice guidance
Satellite remote sensing of oil spills at sea PDF Good practice guidance


Dispersant use can be an effective way of minimizing the overall ecological and socio-economic damage, enhancing the natural biodegradation processes and preventing oil from reaching coastal habitats and shorelines.

Title Format Type
The Role of Dispersants in Oil Spill Response PDF Glance/scan
At-sea monitoring of surface dispersant effectiveness PDF Technical report
Dispersants logistics and supply planning PDF Technical report
Dispersant decision toolkit PDF / Video Infographic / Animation
Dispersants role in biodegradation Video (YouTube) Animation
Dispersants: surface application PDF Good practice guidance
Dispersants: subsea application PDF Good practice guidance
CEDRE: Testing subsea dispersant injections at laboratory scale PDF Research report
SINTEF: Subsea dispersant effectiveness bench-scale test protocol PDF Research report

In-Situ Burning

In-situ burning (ISB) is the controlled combustion and burning of spilled oil at, or close to, the spill site. ISB is recognized as a viable response tool for cleaning up oil spills on water, on land, and on ice.

Title Format Type
Guidelines for the selection of in-situ burning equipment PDF Technical report
CEDRE/INERIS: Preparation of an information document of in-situ burning residues PDF Research report
In-situ burning of oil spills PDF Good practice guidance

At-Sea Containment and Recovery

At sea containment and recovery is the controlled encounter and collection of oil from the water’s surface. Equipment is used to corral and concentrate the spilled oil to a suitable thickness, allowing for mechanical removal.

Title Format Type
The Use of Decanting During Offshore Oil Spill Recovery Operations PDF Technical report
At-Sea Containment and Recovery PDF Good practice guidance

Shoreline and Inland Clean-up

Despite the best intentions of a response at sea or in an inland aquatic environment, there is likelihood that some of the spilled oil will eventually reach the shoreline. When shoreline impact occurs, or is likely to occur, shoreline assessment is a critical component of the response, as is understanding the factors to be considered as well as the advantages and disadvantages of the capabilities available.

Title Format Type
A Guide to Shoreline Cleanup Techniques PDF Good practice guidance
A Guide to Oiled Shoreline Assessment (SCAT) Surveys PDF Good practice guidance
Oil Spill: Inland Response PDF Good practice guidance
Shoreline response programme guidance PDF Good practice guidance

Waste Management

Emulsified oil, oiled sand and gravel, and other oiled waste can increase the volume of spill-related waste to many times the volume of oil originally spilt. This waste often exceeds the capacity of locally available waste management infrastructure and, as a result, the management of response-related waste can become one of the most challenging aspects of an oil spill.

Title Format Type
Oil Spill Waste Minimization and Management PDF Good practice guidance

Oiled Wildlife

Knowledge and experience of oiled wildlife preparedness and response has been gained by responding to spills of crude and fuel oils over several decades, with many of the same techniques, policies, and operating procedures able to be applied to spills of other chemicals that may affect wildlife.

Title Format Type
Wildlife Response Preparedness PDF Good practice guidance
Key principles for the protection, care and rehabilitation of oiled wildlife PDF Technical report