Solutions for Oil Pollution
The amount of oil pollution our environment needs to be reduced. Once oil has effected the environment, no matter how well it is cleaned up, it has already taken effect and the environment will take many years to return to its original state if it ever does. Prevention is better than cure, and reducing oil usage is one way of reducing pollution. Some methods are simple and immediate.
Avoid dumping and recycle used oil. - 363 million gallons of oil are dumped in the waterways each year and everyone has a part to play in reducing this. This applies in both the domestic and work arenas, if oil is used in the workplace, can colleagues be better educated in disposal methods? Some USA governments have used the slogan “You dump it. You drink it” to educate people that dumping motor oil directly affects drinking water. Oil can be recycled and in America recycling stations are set up for this purpose.
Reduce the amount of oil used – 300 billion gallons of oil are used each day worldwide. Our reliance on oil for fuel and manufacturing needs to be reduced. Simple solutions are trying to use public transport or a bicycle rather than drive a car. If everyone makes a small contribution, oil usage can be significantly reduced. Less usage means there is less oil transported over the seas, and therefore less risk of spills.
Industry and governments also have a large role to play in the prevention of spills.
Deterrence & Legislation - Statistics show that a large percentage of oil pollution is from industry spills through drilling, maintenance or major accidents. If the polluters are penalised for these environmental crimes then they will be forced into reducing future possibilities of pollution, both purposefully and accidentally. The penalty for pollution needs to be severe enough to persuade industries and those that dump illegally that pollution of the sea is not worth the risk. If polluters are to be prosecuted they must be caught first and governments should make more effort in surveillance of ships discharging illegally, for example by satellite photography.
Improvement in ship design and training of those involved in shipping is essential to prevent disasters. Many oil spills into the sea are caused by faulty equipment or carelessness on the part of those manning vessels. Again if severe penalties are imposed, perhaps more emphasis will be placed on these areas.
By 2016, single-hulled ships will be outlawed in U.S. waters under a federal law passed after the wreck of the Exxon Valdez. In 2003 the European Union banned single-hulled vessels more than 15 years old but the deadline set by the International Maritime Organization is later which will mean oil spills will continue globally for many years.
A double hull is only effective if there is a small crack or in a low impact grounding or collision that leaves the inner hull intact. The Exxon Valdez was at full sea speed and hit a very rocky bottom, and even if it had been fitted with a double hull, there would have been much the same volume of oil lost. The space between the hulls will need to be monitored to ensure that there is no oil leaking from the cargo tanks.
In Placienta Bay, Newfoundland, Canada, Environment Canada and the Canadian Coastguard have pioneered Operation Clean Feather. This works on the basis that each oil cargo is unique and can be “fingerprinted” on entering the harbour. Any oil pollution can be traced back to the carrier, in order that the polluter can be specifically targeted. The intention is to make transporters have ownership for the safety of their vessel, and held responsible for their own pollution thus reducing the chance of spills. These types of schemes need to be expanded and funded.
The figures show that increased and better enforcement of legislation does work. Between 1981 and 1990 oil pollution from shipping fell from 3.2 million tons to 2.35 million tonnes mainly due to stricter regulations. Optimistic as these figures seem, certain areas still have a very high level of pollution, for example the Caribbean basin and the Northern part of the Indian Ocean due to a high intensity of shipping in those areas. Figures used are only levels of pollution reported and it is though that in actuality the level is much higher. People need to be educated that every time oil pollutes the waterways it has an effect on the complex eco-structure, no matter how small.