Oil Pollution of the Sea

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THE POLLUTION OF THE SEA from hydrocarbons (crude oil, fuel, petrol, oily waste, etc) is a global problem that entails between two and ten million tonnes of these products reaching the sea each year. Although the bulk of public attention is focused on the oil slicks caused by major oil tanker accidents, chronic dumping of these substances – in other words, the residue from ordinary maritime traffic – is three times higher.

Washing out the tanks of oil tankers, dumping bilge water and minor spillages on board or in port are the main sources of hydrocarbon pollution of marine origin.

Illegal dumping

Every year in European waters around 3,000 illegal dumping incidents are detected, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. It is believed that the true number could be up to 30 times higher, but the majority take place unnoticed and are never penalised.

Every year, maritime traffic in Europe generates more than 20 million tonnes of oil residue, oily waters and other pollutants. Despite the fact that there are international laws prohibiting or regulating dumping at sea, and there is a requirement for having treatment systems available in ports, the truth is that only a small percentage of this waste is treated properly and the rest is dumped directly into the oceans.

A large oil tanker can generate some 800 tonnes of crude residue per cargo. And Europe needs almost 6,000 freighters a year to supply its demand for oil, as 90% of its crude oil imports take place by sea. But other merchant ships, fishing vessels and recreational boats also generate waste from used oils, fuel residue, etc.

Extremely harmful compounds

These routing dumping incidents are chronically polluting the sea with a toxic burden. The levels of hydrocarbons found in sea water, in sediments on the sea beds and in living organisms (ranging from seaweed through to whales, via molluscs, crustaceans and fish) are of great concern, particularly in the case of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a group of compounds present in almost all hydrocarbons which are extremely toxic to living beings, some of which can be carcinogenic, teratogenic and mutagenic.

Almost all the European Union seas are regarded as “special areas” by the United Nations International Convention for the Prevention of Marine Pollution (MARPOL). Only the area between Finisterre in Brittany and the Strait of Gibraltar falls outside this category. But this has not prevented European waters from being affected every year by illegal dumping. A particularly worrying case is the Mediterranean, which is regarded as the sea that receives the highest levels of hydrocarbon pollution in the world, where more than 50% of the illegal dumping incidents that takes place each year are detected.

The Strait of Gibraltar is crossed by more than 18,000 vessels carrying hazardous cargos each year and lies on one of the main shipping routes for crude oil and its derivatives, from the Persian Gulf across the Mediterranean towards Europe and North America, amongst other destinations.

Effects on marine life

All marine species are affected by hydrocarbon pollution to a greater or lesser degree. Some of them, such as seabirds, sea turtles and cetaceans, appear on the coasts impregnated in oil, tar balls or other residue.

Around 50% of the seabirds that are found dead on European coasts have suffered from hydrocarbon contamination. And in 90% of these cases, when the compounds were analysed it was corroborated that they consisted of heavy fuel mixed with lubricants: the typical waste from ships’ bilges. On the other side of the Atlantic, in Canada, it is estimated that every year one oiled seabird is found for each 1.3 kilometres of coastline; a fairly similar figure to Europe. This would give us an estimate of around 77,000 oiled seabirds in the European Union every year.

In the case of sea turtles, some very worrying conclusions have been drawn. Between 20% and 50% of the sea turtles found dead were in some way related to contamination from oil and its derivatives. And in the case of cetaceans, it is not unusual to find animals stained in oil or even with tar balls trapped in their respiratory tracts.

A Very 'Offensive' Fleet

Given its illegal nature, the true scope of dumping from vessels is unknown, as is the total number of infractions committed by the world merchant fleet.

Bearing in mind that in the case of the EU fleet, regarded as amongst the ‘cleanest’ in the world, it has been proven that 40% of its vessels have either violated or shown deficiencies in complying with the MARPOL convention over the last few years, we can get an idea of the high level of infractions. These figures give us a picture of what the situation could well be in other, less regulated, fleets, which habitually occupy the top places in the “ranking” of offenders.

Baca juga :
Kapal Asing Buang Limbah di Laut Indonesia
Kontaminasi Kapal Pesiar
Oil Pollution of the Sea

Sumber :
repost date : 09/02/21