An oil spill is the release of a liquid petroleum hydrocarbon into the environment, marine oil spills are most often caused by accidents involving tankers, barges, refineries, pipelines and storage facilities. The magnitude of harm from a spill is determined by many factors, including the amount and type of oil, location, season, weather, and clean up actions. Oil floats on saltwater and rapidly spreads across the water surface forming an oil slick, this thin layer of oil can be harmful to marine life.
Marine life can suffer due to internal exposure (by ingesting or inhaling oil) and/or external exposure. Since most oils float, the species most affected are those that live on or near the sea surface or in shoreline habitats. Fish and shellfish are at risk when the oil gets mixed into the water column or sinks below the surface. Oil can destroy the insulating and the water-repelling abilities of fur or feathers on marine birds and mammals, making them vulnerable to the elements. If species swallow the oil trying to clean themselves they can be poisoned.
The Merchant Shipping (Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation Convention) Regulations 1998 state that UK ports, harbours and oil handling facilities must submit oil spill contingency plans (OSCP) to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). MCA operate the National Contingency Plan for dealing with incidents.
The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) approve the use of oil spill treatment products, sit on groups to advise on the environmental impact and keep wider government briefed on developments during an incident. In the case of major spills, any spraying of dispersants is normally supervised by the Marine and Coastguard Agency (MCA). MMO and statutory nature conservation agencies will be closely involved when there are important environmental concerns, so that any implications for fisheries and marine fauna and flora are considered.
Local Resilience Forums (LRF) are a partnership which works together to help people, an LRF covers Hampshire and the Isle of Wight and helps people and the environment to stay safe. The LRF includes emergency services, councils, businesses and voluntary organisations.
Within the Solent, Local and Harbour Authorities have Oil Spill Contingency and Oil Spill Emergency Plans in place which allows them to react quickly to deal with oil spills. This is a requirement under the International Convention for Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) covering prevention of pollution of the marine environment by ships from operational or accidental causes. There are also simulated oil spill incidents happening around the Solent every year to ensure the correct emergency procedures are in place and rehearse them through practical applications.
ExxonMobil Fawley is the UK’s largest integrated petrochemical complex, producing a range of energy products, lubricants and chemicals. Opened in1951, the complex covers 3,250 acres and provides employment for 2,500 staff and contractors. Crude oil is imported from countries all around the globe to the Fawley Marine Terminal, which handles 2,000 shipping movements each year. Fawley is regulated under the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 2015 and works closely with the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive. ExxonMobil has a Spill Prevention Program that establishes corporate-wide procedures for inspecting and maintaining equipment, training operators and conducting practice drills.
KHM have issued a joint emergency contingency plan with Portsmouth International Port. This plan provides the framework for all oil spill response activities within the Dockyard Port of Portsmouth. KHM also has a General Direction under the Dockyard Port of Portsmouth Order 2005 that asks mariners, occupants of recreational craft and other persons sighting patches of oil in the water in the Port of Southampton, Southampton Water, the Solent and Portsmouth Harbour to report the sighting to KHM or the Southampton Harbour Master giving position, extent, description (e.g. light film, slick, heavy black crude etc) and the direction of movement.