There can be no doubt that when it comes to ocean fuel and oil spillages, prevention is by far the best treatment. Of course, it is never the case that a vessel goes out deliberately with the hope of spilling its own fuel or its cargo of oil — but these situations do still occur and they are both environmentally damaging and incredibly distressing to watch.

Only just over 12 years ago, the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig released an estimated 210 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. This was a disaster on an enormous scale, not just due to the catastrophic damage to bird and marine life in the area, but also the lingering effects the oil has on the water and its viability.

Not all ocean fuel and oil spillages are so high profile, but they are all major problems. There are many steps that should be taken to attempt to minimise the challenges involved. In this article, we take a look at what can be done to counteract the problem of oil and fuel spillages in the ocean.

Campaigning for better regulation

There can be no doubt that one of the most important ways that we can prevent ocean fuel and oil spillages is by strengthening regulation. Yes, it is up to companies and boat owners to do more to minimise the risk of spillages, but it is only through proper rules and regulations that everyone can understand what is expected of them. Additionally, if there is a greater threat of fines or even criminal convictions, there is more pressure applied.

Part of the problem is that there are so many different governing bodies tasked with protecting the seas from these sorts of spills. As such, it is necessary to put a great deal of focus into campaigning for the bodies that can have the most impact. Simultaneously placing an emphasis on concerted action would be most effective.

Regular checks on boats

Just as there is certainly a need for tighter controls around what is and isn’t acceptable for marine vessels, it is also important for boat owners to act responsibly. Many oil spills come not as a result of a large, unavoidable problem, but because maintenance was not carried out correctly, or the boats have leakages.

Responsible boat owners should do everything they can to carry out regular checks before every ocean journey. All boats have the capacity to spill oil and fuel, so all boats must face this kind of regulation.

Stricter bilge water rules

It is naturally the case that marine vessels accumulate bilge water — this is water that mixes with oil and other hydrocarbons on board the boat; oily fluids, lubricants and other forms of grease accumulate in the lowest part of the vessel. This oily water is a by-product of all ocean-going vessels, and it is estimated that millions of tonnes of it are created every single year.

Discharging this water directly into the sea is hugely environmentally irresponsible, and while it is illegal in some situations, there are others where it is possible to jettison the bilge water without legal consequences. Larger vessels over 400 gross tonnes are well-regulated — but many smaller vessels don’t have the same kind of oversight.

Ocean fuel spillages are a huge problem and they can feel like something that happens very far away and is detached from our ability to have an impact on them. But whether you are a boat owner, or just someone interested in protecting the environment, there is more that we can all do to counteract this problem.