Pollution of Sea by Oil


  1. The Problem – Pollution of the sea by oil is a problem of national, regional and international concern because of the deleterious effects it could have on marine environment unless appropriate and timely steps are taken to prevent, mitigate, control, remove or combat the same.

  1. International legislation evolution of international legislation – The problem of oil pollution of the sea has long been recognized by the World Community and with the growth in the quantum of oil transported by sea, the need for concerted action internationally has been appreciated. Consequently an International Conference was held in London in 1954 & the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the sea by Oil, 1954, was adopted. This Convention, modified in 1962, deals with prevention of deliberate operational discharge of oil from ships. Further amendment to the provisions of this Convention have been adopted by the IMO Assembly in 1969, which are yet to come into form. Subsequently, an International Conference for the prevention of pollution of the sea was held in 1973 and a further International Convention was drawn up. This Convention also covers pollution other than by oil. This Convention further been amended by 1978 Protocol and in its present form is known as MARPOL 73/78 and is in force.

  1. International Conventions – The efforts of the International Conventions and national legislation are directed towards the following objectives:

    1. To provide for the complete elimination of the willful and International Pollution of the Seas by oil;

    2. To provide for minimization of the willful, intentional and accidental pollution of the seas by oil and other substances from offshore facilities;

    3. To provide for the complete elimination of the willful and intentional pollution of the sea by activities such as tank washing and bilge discharge involving noxious and hazardous cargoes other than oil;

    4. To deal with minimization of spillage of oil or other noxious substances as a result of accidents;

    5. To deal with dumping or other means of disposal of shore- generated waste and sewage in the seas by ships and barges;

    6. To deal with the safe carriage of dangerous goods;

    7. To deal with the treatment of ships generating sewage or waste;

    8. To deal with air pollution from ships;

  1. In order to meet the problem arising out of oil pollution damage, there have also been the following three International conventions: -

    1. International Convention relating to intervention on the high seas in Cases of Oil Pollution Damage, 1969;

    2. International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution, 1969, and

    3. International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Oil Pollution Damage, 1971.

  1. National Law – Rules – Orders: Part XI of the M. S. Act, 1958, gives effect to the International Convention for the prevention of pollution of the sea by oil, 1954, as amended in 1962.

  1. The problem of pollution of the sea by oil is of particular concern to us since a large quantum of oil is being transported by sea from the middle East, past our coast to eastern countries. The above, combined with our own oil imports, pose a continuing threat of oil pollution to our marine environment.

  1. Accordingly, the problem has to be tackled in two stages / parts, viz.: -

    1. Prevention of such oil pollution , and

    2. Mitigation, containment / control, removal or combat of oil spillage, whether accidental or otherwise.

  • As regards (I) above, the same is tackled by International Convention, Merchant Shipping Act, 1958 and M.S. (Prevention of Pollution of  the Sea by Oil) Rules, 1974. These rules are applicable to all tankers of 150 tons gross or more and all other ships of 400 tons gross or more. The rules specify the limits of the prohibited zones, the equipment to be carried on board the ship and general precautions to be taken for prevention of leakage and accidental discharges as well as precautions to be taken while loading, transferring and unloading oil by tankers. The rules also require all vessels to maintain oil records book to indicate any operations carried out on board with respect to oil.

  • As regards (II), a Contingency Plan of action is prepared so that in the event of any spillage whether accidental or otherwise, the same can be dealt with. The plan envisages overall co-ordination by the D.G. as Central Co-ordinating Authority with the local co-ordination/control being exercised by the authorities in the major ports. As regards Local Action Groups, they shall be required to have the attendant infrastructure ready to meet the emergent situation expeditiously effectively and successfully.

  • As indicated above, the authorities in the major ports viz. Kandla, Mumbai, JNPT, Goa, Mangalore, Cochin, Chennai. Tuticorin, Vishakapatnam, Paradip and Calcutta, shall form and co-ordinate the Local Action Group. It is expected that the local action group depending on the quantum of oil pollution that they may have to deal with, shall equip their organization with dispersants, dispersants spraying equipment, crafts, skimmers, off-shore  books and other such material required for the purpose. All major ports have been notified to have oil reception facilities as required by the Convention.

  • As stated in para 16.1.4 the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution, 1969, came into force on June 19, 1975. This Convention has been ratified by the Govt. of India. As envisaged in the Convention, shipowners, shipmasters etc., are required to take note that insurance or other financial security to the extent as prescribed in M.S. (Form of Certificate of insurance for civil liability for oil pollution Damage) Rules 1985 is maintained.

  • International Convention on the establishment of an International Fund for Oil Pollution Damage 1971 is in force since 1978 and India became a party to it in 1990. The main function of the Fund Convention are to provide supplementary compensation to those who cannot obtain full compensation for Oil Pollution Damage under the Civil Liability Convention and to indemnify the shipowner for portion of his liability under that Convention. The IOPC Fund pays  compensation to those suffering Oil Pollution Damage in a State Party to the Fund Convention mostly when the damage exceeds the shipowners Liability under the Civil Liability Convention or he is unable to pay otherwise. The compensation payable by the IOPC Fund in respect of an accident is limited to an aggregate amount of 60 million SDR (U.S. $93 Million) including the sum actually paid by the shipowner (or his insurer) under the Civil Liability Convention. The Fund is financed by contributions from member states who receive in one Calendar year more than 150000 Tonnes of Crude Oil & Heavy Fuel Oil under Sea transport.

Go Top

Go Back