Material is posted in reverse chronological order (most recent postings first) and you will have to scroll down to find older documents.

ISCO Papers submitted to IMO Meetings prior to September 2012 have not been posted here but copies can be obtained upon application to the ISCO Secretariat –


Executive summary: This paper addresses practical issues that arise where strict observance of MARPOL Annex 1 provisions governing oil discharge at sea can inhibit effectiveness of marine oil spill recovery operations,


1. This paper relates to the decanting of settled-out water from shipboard tanks during oil skimming operations. The issue is that states will not normally permit decanting unless oil content is within the limit permitted in MARPOL Annex 1. This matter is discussed below in paragraphs 4 – 26.

2. MARPOL Annex 1 prohibits all discharges of oil at sea where the oil content of an oil-water mixture is in excess of 15ppm. Other provisions totally prohibit oil discharge within 50 nm of the nearest land and within IMO-designated Special Areas.

3. These provisions of MARPOL Annex 1 have a direct and negative bearing on at-sea oil recovery operations.


Unintended consequences – Negative effects on continuity of oil recovery operations

4. In situations where an oil spill recovery vessel is obliged to cease recovery operations on account of available tank capacity being completely topped up with recovered oil-water mixture, the rules do not allow settled out water to be discharged (to permit continuation of oil recovery) unless oil content is below 15ppm.

5. In virtually all oil spill situations it is not practicable for skimming vessels to have onboard capability to process settled-out water to ensure oil content is below the permitted 15ppm limit. In order to comply with rules, the only option is to halt oil recovery.

6. This frustration experienced by responders was recently expressed by an internationally respected oil spill response expert – “The rules are meant to cover normal operations and of course we all want to see low discharges into the sea, but there should be a dispensation for spills”. Furthermore a vessel’s master may be prosecuted for not complying with MARPOL requirements.
Historical precedents

7. Individual states can give, and have given, exemptions for discharge of separated water containing more than 15ppm of oil in specified situations. For example, limited decanting was permitted during the Exxon Valdez spill where many skimmer vessels were operating at very remote locations and where there were severe logistical problems in arranging for recovered oil-water mixtures to be uplifted from these vessels at frequent intervals.

8. More recently, during the Deepwater Horizon spill, The US EPA Comprehensive Liquids Waste and Materials Management Plan stipulated “During oil skimming operations, the objective is to collect oil with a minimal amount of water. Decanting operations on water are conducted under the approval and permitting of the incident’s Unified Command. The mix of oil and water that is collected offshore is stored in an appropriate container and the water that settles out is decanted back to sea while the container is still offshore”. Authorisation to decant settled-out water was very important because the response vessels were typically 5 to 7 hours away from port.

9. In the examples given above the granting of exemptions was possible under the provisions of MARPOL Annex 1 Regulation 4, Paragraph 3 which states “the discharge into the sea of substances containing oil, approved by the Administration, when being used for the purpose of combating specific pollution incidents in order to minimise the damage from pollution. Any such discharge shall be subject to the approval of any Government in whose jurisdiction it is contemplated the discharge will occur”.

10. One also has also to keep in mind that when a vessel is operating in international waters there could be problems of jurisdiction. In such a case a vessel’s flag state may take action against the master if the discharge is not in compliance with MARPOL requirements. Furthermore this would be more problematical if the area of operation is within a “Special Area”.

11. However, the granting of an exemption is very much more of an exception than a rule, and may only be applied in specific cases. This means that in most cases an oil spill response organisation (OSRO) would have to make application for an exemption, something that could be difficult to get processed quickly, resulting in unacceptable delay in the midst of a spill combat operation. It also appears that many OSROs and involved government officials have a low awareness of the provision within Regulation 4 and the option available to governments to invoke the relevant clause.

12. For these reasons it is recommended to make changes that would permit the person locally in charge of skimming operations to make timely decisions and to circumvent delay involved in seeking a special dispensation from the relevant authority.

Consideration of Net Environmental Benefit

13. In the midst of productive skimming operations it is not uncommon to be faced with the situation where tank capacity on the skimming vessel becomes full. The person in charge has to decide whether to cease recovery or decant settled-out water in order to continue skimming.

14. The most obvious consideration (apart from the legal aspect) should be based on the application of Net Environmental Benefit Analysis (NEBA).

15. Under NEBA, the environmental consequences of alternative actions are weighed and a decision is taken to adopt the option that will be the most positive for the protection of the environment.

16. The most environmentally beneficial choice may be self-evident but, in the absence of a dispensation, the person in charge will, in deciding to decant settled-out water, be breaking the law and may therefore be liable to prosecution.

17. This is not an acceptable situation. Therefore in such circumstances by applying the NEBA concept, decanting at sea should be allowed as long as the oil content in the mixture being discharged is significantly less than that being recovered. This would save on the frequency that vessels have to proceed to a discharge facility

Other points that should be considered.

18. Firstly, a settled-out oil water mixture will contain only very small droplets of oil. These are comparable to droplets of similar size that would result from dispersant application, which is a generally accepted oil spill response option. So why worry about such small amounts of oil which will disappear and be finally biodegraded. When the real outcome is the same, it is not logical to accept the use of dispersants as a response option and forbid decanting of settled-out water in a spill situation.

19. Secondly, when a ship is recovering oil or treating oil with dispersant, oil will adhere to the hull and this will actually cause more oil pollution than that which will result from the decanting of an oil water mixture after gravity separation.

20. Thirdly, the primary goal should always be to recover as much oil as practicable from the water surface. Concern about the small amount of oil getting back into the marine environment as a result of decanting is misplaced when compared with the consequence that, without decanting, the capacity for oil recovery oil will be much reduced and less oil will be recovered.

21. Fourthly, the amount of oil in spills like the Exxon Valdez, Prestige or the Gulf of Mexico spill which escapes from any oil treatment or recovery operation will be far more than the very small amount released from decanting.

22. Once a ship is in the harbour or in a situation where the water surface is clean there is not a problem with a 15ppm limitation on discharge of settled-out water.

23. From practical experience a separation time of 20 minutes is enough to have adequate separation for decanting. This means that for a tank of 900 m3 the maximum pump capacity (water) should be below 300 m3/hour in order to have only the discharge of small droplets as referred to in paragraph 18 above.

Ideas being put forward for consideration

24. MARPOL provisions are currently under review. It could be an option, amongst other changes being considered, to propose an amendment to Annex 1 recognising that under certain conditions the decanting of settled-out water should be permitted at the discretion of the person in charge. Appropriate conditions could include compliance with new Guidelines created to address the issues, including a requirement to address NEBA considerations. Other recommendations might apply to the need for continuous monitoring of decanting operations, ensuring that settled-out water is discharged into the immediate area of ongoing skimming operations and ensuring that discharge will be immediately ceased upon observation of increased oil content.

25. If amendments to Annex 1 are accepted by states, existing regulations of states implementing the revised rules may be modified to reflect the changes relating to decanting settled-out water and the applicable Guidelines. Subject to compliance with new rules, decanting will be automatically allowed if conditions are met and the need for issue of special dispensations will be removed,

26. It will then become possible for states to incorporate the revised rules and new guidelines for decanting of settled-out water within their national contingency plans.


27. The Technical Group is requested to address this matter with a view to the development of operational guidelines in situations where discharge of settled-out water during oil recovery operations would not comply with current MARPOL requirements. It is anticipated that such Guidelines would lay down operational parameters for such operations.


Relations with Non-Governmental Organizations

Knowledge-Based Response Planning for Marine Incidents

Submitted by the International Spill Control Organization (ISCO)


Executive summary. By definitively differentiating knowledge from belief, this paper replaces belief-based contingency plans with one based on generalised knowledge of spill fate, effects and response from which all incident-specific action plans for all aspects of any oil/HNS incident can be derived by substituting incident-specific values for the physicochemical properties which control its fate, effects and response. This approach is then retrospectively applied to the Sea Empress Incident to show how the cost-effectiveness of all future responses will be improved by accepting knowledge and rejecting such beliefs as environmentalist NGOs are hereby invited to refute/validate lest any knowledge be omitted in finalising the new approach.

Related documents MEPC59/7/1, OPRC-HNS/TG/10/4, 11/4, 12/4, 12/8, MEPC/60/ WP/ 1, 61/WP/1, 62/WP/1, OPRC-HNS/TG13/5/5 and OPRC-HNS/TG/13/WP/2.


1 Having noted the intention of ISCO to base spill response training on a knowledge-accepting/ belief-rejecting contingency plan as advocated in its documents OPRC-HNS/TG10/4, 11/4 and 12/4; and having considered the ISCO document OPRC-HNS/TG13/5/51, the Technical Group:

-noted the work thus far carried out by ISCO on its knowledge-based response planning;

-noted that ISCO has invited relevant NGOs (at MEPC 62) to contribute to the finalisation of its work; and

-requested MEPC to invite interested delegations and observers to contribute to the ISCO work on this topic. (c.f. document OPRC-HNS/TG 13 WP.2).

2 Having shown the environmentalist beliefs identified in document OPRC-HNS/TG13/5/51 to be incompatible with existing knowledge, this document for TG 14 now definitively differentiates the knowledge/belief dichotomy in general in order to provide the specific differentiation of environmental knowledge from environmentalist belief on which to base its knowledge-accepting/belief-rejecting contingency and incident-specific action plans. Nonetheless, to avoid the possibility of knowledge-omission, this document for TG 14 re-invites environmentalist NGOs to refute or validate their beliefs by submitting the hypotheses suggested herein to the scientific method of cause-effect investigation which pseudoscience fails to adopt or self-interestedly ignores (c.f. paragraphs 73-79). However, in respect of this invitation, environmentalist NGOs must accept that their correlation of belief-selected parameters, unrelated to cause-effect, simply restates the initiating belief; that their claims to have demonstrated a cause-effect relationship by expressing the correlation numerically, merely restates the belief yet again; that this reiterative sleight-of-hand denotes pseudoscience; and that if this is all these NGOs can do, they have no alternative but to accept available knowledge as having refuted such beliefs.
General Differentiation of Knowledge from Belief.

3 A recent book2 begins this task by noting that the knowledge which is craftsmanship, science and technology and the knowledge-content of our traditional behaviour codes differs from the beliefs on which our socio-political policies are based until their failure in reality produces social disharmony, violence, revolution and war, that since time immemorial we have failed to see this difference in outcome as differentiating knowledge from belief; and that while belief-based socio-political regressions did not previously prevent physical-welfare progress, our so-called Enlightened rationality now does so by eliding/conflating belief with knowledge to the extent of replacing commonsense with socio-political belief-consensus, and science-technology with pseudo-science.

4 However, this obscurantism can be eliminated to achieve true enlightenment by definitively differentiating the knowledge/belief dichotomy for the first time2 by noting that imaginative beliefs as to reality become knowledge of reality only when evaluated for consistency/inconsistency with reality; that belief remains belief when this reality-evaluation is impossible in principle or pro tem; that this reality-evaluation also differentiates the previously undifferentiated dichotomies of truth/falsehood, wisdom/ folly, good/bad and right/wrong. Again, this reality-evaluation differentiates opinion and counter-opinion into belief and counter-belief respectively supported by partially selected knowledge (the facts/ counter-facts) thus showing that debate is interminable unless conclusive knowledge becomes available; that debaters reveal the absence of conclusive knowledge by their rhetorical references to the undefined dichotomies of rational/irrational, reality/unreality and acceptance/denial; and that the only possible outcome is a transient belief-consensus wholly inadequate for reliable action in reality, especially when the cited ‘facts’ are sourced from pseudoscience.
Specific Differentiation of Environmental Knowledge from Environmentalist Belief.

5 Having thus differentiated knowledge from belief in general2, we see that the beliefs which drive the MEPC agenda can now be differentiated from and shown incompatible with the knowledge which would harmonise technology with the environment and which harmonises technology with safety within the MSC. Thus, with respect to the MEPC, we see that the belief which correlates species-extinction/ecological-disaster with the coating of individual organisms with floating pollutants or with the exposure of others to pollutant concentrations in the water column, can be differentiated from our knowledge of the numbers coated being too low and the exposure-concentrations being too low and too transient to cause any such species/ecological effects. Again, we see that the belief which correlates species-extinction/ecological-disaster with dispersant-use can be differentiated from our knowledge that such use reduces the numbers coated by dispersing the causative floating layers without increasing their concentrations in seawater beyond those limited by layer-thickness; that dispersant-induced surface-proximate concentrations are no higher than those of the natural dispersion of less persistent pollutants; and that concentration-depth profiles for dilution/biodegradation in the water column as a whole, are indistinguishable whether natural or dispersant-induced (c.f. paragraphs 9 & 13).

6 Again, as to current disputation of belief/disbelief within the MEPC as to the means of reducing or paying for carbon dioxide emissions, we see that the belief which correlates global warming with anthropogenic carbon dioxide release from fossil fuel combustion can be differentiated from our knowledge that the entire land and marine biospheres are continuously recycling through the atmosphere as carbon dioxide by photosynthesis and bio-oxidative degradation; that the tectonic plate movement which forms carbonate rock in mountain building and decomposes it in volcanism also recycles carbon dioxide through the atmosphere; that were there no volcanic return, this sequestration as carbonate by the Urey reaction would have terminated the photosynthesis on which life depends by removing all carbon dioxide from the atmosphere even before hominid evolution began; and that these biological and geological carbon dioxide cycles are unlikely to be disturbed significantly by our combustion of organic material which would have recycled through the atmosphere as carbon dioxide many times already had it not been sequestered by fossilisation to natural gas, petroleum and coal.

7 Yet again, belief in the permanent toxicity of oil/HNS releases can now be differentiated from our knowledge that all organic material is subject to the recycling which is synthesis and biodegradation in the land and marine ecosystems; that the biological carbon dioxide cycle of land-based ecosystems continuously introduces intermediate degradation products to the marine ecosystem by river run-off and atmospheric rainout; that others are continuously produced by the marine ecosystem itself; that these move back up the food chain, sink to sustain food chains at greater depth or return to surface waters by the up-welling which makes continental shelf waters more productive than ocean waters; and that consequently none of it is toxic. More particularly, we know that primary marine production arises from carbon dioxide by photosynthesis in the light-penetrating euphotic zone where phytoplankton species undertake the role of land plants; that chemosynthetic bacteria synthesise organic molecules from carbon dioxide by energy derived from oxidation of such as the ammonium ion, molecular hydrogen or hydrogen sulphide instead of from photons; that heterotrophic bacteria use preformed organic food-sources in the secondary production of the marine ecosystem which extends from the surface independent of light, to the absence of light which extends to the seabed thousands of metres below the euphotic zone; and that unused organic food sources sequestered from biodegradation are fossilised to natural gas, petroleum and coal.

8 Thus, given the dependence of heterotrophic bacteria on pre-existing organic material, we should not be surprised by knowledge3,4 that they utilise petroleum components and organic HNS, the precursors of which would have been a food source during their pre-fossilisation passage to the seabed. Indeed, we know that populations of heterotrophic bacterial species at the bottom of the food-chain/ ecological-system are proportional to the standing concentrations of oil from land-runoff, incident releases and natural seepage; and that these are the organisms which bio-remediate contaminated sites..

Again, while natural seeps and anthropogenic releases expose organisms to a wider range of organic chemical classes and homologues within each class than are present in their food-source precursors, and while low molecular weight hydrocarbons and aromatics of petroleum origin could be respectively narcotic and toxic subject to concentration, we know that both are rapidly lost by evaporation prior to photolytic degradation in the atmosphere; that while higher molecular weight poly-nuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PNAH) are not lost to the atmosphere, those absorbed by filter-feeding organisms are rapidly excreted unchanged or as recognisable metabolites with removal of taint on exposure to ‘clean’ water prior to sale; that free-swimming fish do not acquire taint unless surface-contaminated by being drawn in nets through floating slicks; and that all organic compounds pre- or post-fossilisation degrade rapidly to carbon dioxide and water when exposed to natural oxygen concentrations whether or not utilised as food sources in ecological systems.

9 Again, as to exposure-concentrations, we know3,4 that floating oil/HNS spread to a layer thickness of 0.1mm before evaporation/dispersion/solution rates have much effect; that were these to evaporate, disperse or dissolve instantaneously the concentration in the bottom meter of the atmosphere or the top metre of the water column could not be more than 100ppm; that the real rate of dispersion/ solution being less than instantaneous if not considerably slower, this top-metre concentration in seawater is always less than 100ppm, and continues to dilute through the ppb range to an effective zero within the water column as a whole and to degrade therein whether or not assisted by organisms without damage either way. Again, as to non-spreading and soluble HNS, we know that the proximate-surface concentrations arising from bulk material are  those of their saturated solutions because they dilute and degrade within the whole water column. Yet again, we know that the surface-proximate concentrations arising from volatile and spreading oil components and individual HNS are  those of their saturated vapour pressures because they dilute and degrade within the atmospheric column as a whole, though such dilution is constrained for releases to enclosed spaces (c.f. paragraphs 31-32). Thus, having differentiated environmental knowledge from environmentalist belief we can now create knowledge-accepting/belief-rejecting contingency and incident-specific response plans.

The New Knowledge-Based Contingency Plan:

General Prediction of the Fate and Effects of Releases and of Appropriate Responses.

10 As to prediction of the natural outcome of oil/HNS releases in respect of contingency plan parameters, we know3,4 that buoyancy, sinking and solidification are predictable on the basis of the physicochemical properties manifested as densities, pour points and melting points; that the extents of evaporation and of the water-contents of oil emulsions are predictable from the known distillation profiles and viscosities of crude and fuel oils; that insoluble/liquid slicks of HNS do not emulsify, thus dispersing at rates predictable from their initial viscosities or evaporating at rates predictable from their known volatilities; that insoluble/non-volatile slicks of oils/HNS disperse at rates dependent on their viscosities whether emulsified or non-emulsified; that the respective half-lives (c.f. paragraph 38) of such dispersing slicks predict the fractions of quantified releases which will disperse at sea and the fractions likely to strand on known wind/tide vectors (c.f. paragraphs 60 and 63); that soluble HNS dissolve at rates controlled by their known solubility; and that there is no cause for surprise whichever oil/HNS is known to have been released.

11 Thus, we know3,4 that oil/HNS releases are either liquids or solids at ambient temperatures; that they either float while evaporating, dispersing, or dissolving or sink while doing so; that evaporation is followed by atmospheric dilution and photolytic degradation; that while the non-volatile components of floating slicks may coat shorelines and individual organisms of particular species, their subsequent dispersion and/or solution from shorelines to sea water simply resumes their earlier dispersion, solution, dilution and degradation within the seawater ecosystem in which organisms utilise preformed organic molecules as food before themselves dying, degrading or being eaten by others which die and degrade; and that there is no cause to believe in species-extinction/ecological-disaster in respect of any released oil/HNS.

12 Again, while the coating of shorelines and individual organisms can cause commercial loss by interrupting amenity enjoyment and fishing activities for which compensation is available, we know3,4 that the above knowledge-based general prediction of fate, effects and non-effects can be used to predict the commercial impact which claimants would cite had no response been mounted; that this prediction can be compared with the known reduction in impact achieved by the knowledge-based/cost-effective response actually mounted before and after stranding; that these response costs should be proportionate to reductions in claims; that such reductions are best achieved by enhancing dispersion, dilution and degradation within the water column by viscosity-amenable dispersant application before and after stranding; that higher viscosity values may necessitate mechanical recovery; but that recovery at sea or onshore involves processing times and costs avoidable only by successful dispersant-use.

The New Knowledge-Based Contingency Plan:

Belief Rejection and Knowledge Acceptance.

13 Thus, the new knowledge-based contingency plan rejects environmentalist belief in species-extinction/ecological-disaster and accepts available knowledge that the water column and atmospheric concentrations of released oil/HNS are too low to have species-wide or ecological effects; that dispersants prevent the coating of shorelines and individual organisms with oils/emulsions without increasing concentrations in the water column beyond those of natural dispersion which would be  100ppm in the top metre of the water column even for instantaneous dispersion were this ever to occur. Yet again, the new contingency plan encourages believers in anthropogenic global warming to recognise available knowledge that the carbon dioxide emitted by fossil fuel combustion would have been recycled many times already had fossilisation not interrupted the recycling without which no vegetable, animal or human life would exist at all; and that inevitable increases in propulsion and hull efficiencies will decrease carbon dioxide emissions as fuel consumption decreases to the cost-benefit of humanity regardless of belief/disbelief in anthropogenic global warming.

14 The above differentiation of knowledge from its counter-beliefs was presented in relation to the new contingency plan in document1 OPRC-HNS/TG13/5/51 which also invited environmentalist NGOs to submit the said beliefs to reality-evaluation2 as specific hypotheses (c.f. paragraphs 19 and 73-79). In the meantime, this paper to TG 14 now proceeds to outline the new knowledge-based contingency and incident-specific action plans based on the knowledge2,3,4 referred to above which is now being more extensively covered in Cormack’s Column5 in the ISCO Newsletter and which will become the knowledge-preserving component of the New Contingency Plan6 (c.f. paragraphs 18 & 24).

The New Knowledge-Based Contingency Plan:

Short Summary of the Knowledge Base.

15 As to developing the new knowledge-based plan, we recall that floating layers evaporate, disperse and/or dissolve to atmospheric and seawater concentrations too low to be other than locally/ transiently toxic at most; that only those not evaporated, dispersed or dissolved come ashore to the temporary detriment of commercial activity; that the fraction which comes ashore depends on the proximity of the shore to the point of release; that cargo/bunker transfer and well-capping limit releases; that while those which evaporate, disperse or dissolve cannot be recovered, species-extinction/ ecological-disaster has not yet arisen from releases of total cargo/bunkers or from well blow-outs however prolonged; and that oil components in the boiling range 150-250C evaporate in 5 hours.

16 Thus, we recall that dispersants can be used to reduce the amount coming ashore and to disperse any stranded amounts back to the sea, given the extent to which previous natural dispersion precluded such arrival; that the choice of dispersing or recovering depends on pollutant viscosity and wave-height; that dispersant-use avoids the onshore recovery which requires pollutant/beach-material separation and the subsequent processing common to sea and onshore recovery; that such operations are avoidable only by natural or induced dispersion before and after stranding; that the amounts dispersed/ recovered at sea in localised areas of operation are much smaller than the amounts dispersing naturally over the whole area affected; and that these low operational capabilities emphasise the need for cargo/ bunker transfer and well-capping.

17 Again, we recall that the only significant release-effects are the physical coating of shorelines and of individual organisms by slicks of oils/emulsions, that these effects are diminished/excluded by low viscosity and high evaporation/dispersion/solution rates; and that all atmospheric/seawater effects of released oils/HNS are diminished/excluded by their low initial concentrations and their subsequent dilutions/degradations to the carbon dioxide and water of their photosynthesised precursors.

The New Knowledge-Based Contingency Plan:

Access to the Full Knowledge Base.

18 As to a more comprehensive treatment of the knowledge-base of the new contingency plan readers are referred to two earlier books3,4 and to the articles of Cormack’s Column5 in the ISCO Newsletter. In due course these articles will constitute the preamble to the New Contingency Plan or will be a companion document6 to it, as will be the recently published Chemical Spill Response Manual7of Koops and Zeinstra. The former6, will cover technology/environment harmonisation through knowledge of water-immiscible systems, fate/effects of released oil/HNS, dispersant-use, remote-sensing/sampling/identification, mechanical recovery, shoreline cleaning/bioremediation, combustion and the negative effects of belief-based contingency arrangements as exemplified by official reports of the Sea Empress Incident. Thus, it will cover evaporation/solution, half-lives of natural dispersion and the effectiveness/ineffectiveness of all response equipment/techniques together with the negative effects of belief-based regulation on dispersant-use and on the downstream-processing, recycling, and disposal of recovered pollutants and contaminated beach-materials, while the latter7 already surveys risks, response, detection, organisation, rules and regulations.

19 As to possible amendment of our current knowledge-base, environmentalist NGOs have been invited to accept current knowledge as refuting their beliefs or to convert them to specific hypotheses (c.f. paragraphs 72-79) for conversion to positive or negative knowledge by the reality-evaluation2 which differentiates knowledge from belief in general (c.f. paragraphs 3&4),environmental knowledge from environmentalist belief, and science from pseudoscience (c.f. paragraphs 5-9). However, were any such hypotheses thus to be reality-validated to positive knowledge, then paragraphs 10-12 on predictions of fate and appropriate response would be adjusted accordingly as would paragraphs 13&14 on belief-rejection/knowledge-acceptance and paragraphs 15&16 on the knowledge-base summary. In the meantime, the new contingency and incident-specific action plans will now be developed in eight sections on the basis of knowledge-acceptance/belief-rejection as indicated in paragraphs 1-19..

The New Knowledge-Based Contingency Plan:

General Considerations.

20 As to the fate of releases, we know that oils/HNS evaporate, disperse, dissolve, emulsify and/ or sink at rates depending on the specific physicochemical property values which apply to mixtures of compounds as in crude or product oils or to individual HNS; and that these values are well-known and available from the respective industries which refine, synthesise, and/or use such oils/HNS. Again, we know the relevance of these properties to the water immiscibility, distillation profiles, pour points, melting points and viscosities of crude and product oils, and to the water contents and viscosities of their water-in-oil emulsions on which slick-persistence depends. Yet again,, we know the relevance of such properties to the water immiscibility, boiling point, vapour pressure, melting point, viscosity, and solubility of HNS, while we also know that no individual HNS emulsifies with water and that hardly any have viscosities high enough to produce persistent slicks, and that while few sink, most evaporate, dissolve or disperse faster than all but the lightest distillate oil products.

21 As to the effects of releases, we know that these depend on the physicochemical properties which limit and further dilute post-release concentrations of vapours/gases in the atmosphere and of dispersed droplets and solutes in seawater to levels below those of species-extinction/ecological-disaster; that all organic compounds degrade to carbon dioxide and water by direct oxidation or through the biological food-chain; that while physical coating with layers of oil/emulsion prior to dispersion and degradation can kill individual organisms, such deaths have not caused species-extinction/ecological-disaster; and that while such layers can disrupt commercial activities, compensation is available.

22 As to response to releases, we know that contingency planning should be directed to avoidance of the commercial effects of surface slicks on coastal waters and shorelines; that such avoidance automatically benefits individual organisms otherwise liable to coating; that stranded slicks degrade more slowly than those dispersed, dissolved and diluted in seawater; that these at-sea processes are by far the greatest protectors of shorelines; and that while nothing can be done to recover dispersed droplets or dissolved/evaporated molecules, no harm arises from their presence/degradation within the ecology of sea, shore, land or atmosphere. Again, we know that failure or success in protecting shorelines from floating slicks depends on the amount, the viscosity, and the shore-proximity of non-soluble/non-volatile releases from damaged tanks and packages; that near-shore releases over 5,000 tonnes are likely to be beyond the shore-protection rates of dispersant treatment and/or mechanical recovery; that response planning should thus focus on preventing releases beyond those of initial impact-damage to a single tank by cargo/bunker transfer or by preventing releases beyond initial oil-well damage by expeditious capping, initial releases having been limited by tank-volume, by the smaller volumes otherwise packaged, by oil-well production rates and by advances in well-capping.

23 However, when floating pollutants do strand despite all design-precautions, response-actions, and extents of natural evaporation/solution/dispersion at sea, we know3,4 that the best contingency plan would be to return them to the sea for resumption of the natural dispersion mechanisms and response actions which would have continued had the slick had further to travel before stranding; that water depth limitations imposed on dispersant-use close to shore are thus unnecessary/counter-environment; and that dispersant application onshore is thus consistent with the foregoing knowledge and is more cost-effective than the physical separation of pollutant from beach-material and the downstream processing otherwise unavoidable when pollutant viscosity is too high for successful dispersant-use.

24 Further to paragraphs 18-23 above, the articles now appearing in Cormack’s Column5 in the ISCO Newsletter will be summarised as a section on general considerations within the new knowledge-based contingency plan to preserve therein the knowledge more fully available in the companion document6 referenced in paragraph 18. Thus, both the plan and its associated documents6,7 will preserve all knowledge against staff changes by being available for training replacement staff (c.f. paragraph 72).

The New Knowledge-Based Contingency Plan:

Salvage Component.

25 As to salvage, we know that normal practice is for a ship’s crew to conduct a damage survey and to undertake damage-limitation action to the best of its ability after grounding or collision; that beyond this stage, the public interest is best served when the marine survey service of the coastal state collects as much knowledge as possible on the state of the casualty before salvors arrive on-scene; and that such knowledge together with that later acquired by salvors is the only means of enabling government to assume joint ownership/endorsement of all elements of the ensuing incident-specific salvage plan and to invoke the Powers of Intervention to overcome belief-based environmentalist objections to any element thereof,2,3,4. Thus, we know that whether this plan is for in situ ship-to-ship transfer of cargo and bunkers and subsequent wreck removal, for movement to a safe haven for such transfer, or for removal to an oil port for discharge to shore, the foregoing knowledge-acquisition process is the only means of avoiding the uncertain outcome of the belief-based debates of the adversarial legal process which discourages use of the Intervention Powers in the first place.

26 Another benefit of salvage plan co-ownership,3,4 is that the salvor in possession and the marine survey service of government can jointly use the good offices of such as the International Salvage Union (ISU) or the American Salvage Association (ASA) to obtain knowledge-based advice/ adjudication on damage-stability and on release-limitation prior to and during re-flotation by partial removal of cargo/bunkers and pressurisation of tank water-bottoms before entry to a safe haven for ship to ship transfer by emergency pumping systems, or to a port for ship-to-shore discharge when onboard pumps and power supplies remain in working order.

27 Thus, while we know that the Powers of Intervention are adequate3,4, we also know that their application in respect of salvage requires the new knowledge-based contingency plan to include a clear statement of the knowledge-based policy which recognises that while oil-well capping is a technical problem, fully adequate technical solutions may not always be available; that while technically adequate cargo/bunker transfer solutions are available for use in safe havens and ports, these must no longer be paralysed by environmentalist belief in species-extinction/ecological-disaster. Again, the new plan’s salvage component must insist on the Powers of Intervention conferring on salvors the freedom to recognise small intervention-related releases as insignificant in comparison with the total release of cargo/bunkers which would arise from total loss were the casualty to remain at the weather-exposed location of its initial limited damage; and that this insistence should be directed to avoiding the costs of response to such a massive release rather than to avoiding the species-extinction/ecological-disaster which even the largest cargo/bunker release or the most prolonged blow-out has yet failed to cause.

The New Knowledge-Based Contingency Plan:

Salvage Equipment Exemplified.

28 From the early 1980s, the UK established a national stockpile of emergency cargo/bunker transfer equipment for use by salvors on request. This consisted of Framo TK5 and TK6 transfer pumps with nominal capacities of 190 and 500m3h-1 designed for insertion through standard deck openings to operate in the submerged condition to push the tank content out rather than to draw it out, the former mode being the more efficient. Even so, if a heated cargo cools from loss of power, transfer will drop to zero on solidification unless sufficient heat can be supplied by the salvor. In addition, inflatable ship-ship fenders were chosen for ease of storage, transport and deployment. These, stored on a wooden pallet within a cargo net, were each 3.75m in diameter by 16m long when inflated and weighed 1167kg. The floating transfer hose was of lay-flat type and stored in 15 boxes each containing approximately 666ft of hose. The couplings and replacement spares were of stainless steel and a special banding tool was included to connect replacement couplings to hose-ends.

29 Again, two inert gas generators were initially provided to fill void spaces at rates of 1000 and 1600m3h-1 with the carbon dioxide normally supplied by the ship’s engine-exhaust, reliance on this equipment requiring that the rate of void-space creation by cargo discharge, must not be allowed to outstrip the inert-gas generating rate. Oxygen analysers were also included to monitor tank atmospheres, each analyser being equipped with a 20m suction tube and hand-operated bellows to supply samples to the analyser. Again, hydrocarbon analysers were included together with ventilation fans driven by compressed-air and equipped with injection nozzles and convenient lengths of flexible ducting, all such equipment being intrinsically safe. Yet again, the stockpile included breathing and resuscitation apparatus, protective clothing, fire-fighting equipment, emergency lighting and portable radios, all of which were intrinsically safe. For more on personal protection and pollution detection, sampling and analysis, readers may refer to sections 8 & 9 of the Chemical Spill Response Manual7.

New Knowledge-based Contingency Plan:

Powers of Intervention.

30 Despite the above stockpile, the UK continued to comply with the beliefs of environmentalists in failing to adopt a safe havens policy for use of such equipment until the Donaldson Enquiry into the Sea Empress Incident of 1996 was made aware of the knowledge-based case for a safe havens policy as published in 19833, and concluded in favour of a new post of Secretary of State’s Representative (SOSREP) to implement this policy. Clearly, the Intervention Powers must be integral with the new contingency plan to sustain this policy on the knowledge-base outlined above (c.f. paragraph 72).
The New Knowledge-Based Contingency and Incident-Specific Action Plans:
General Onboard Component.

31 Thus far we have been considering the new knowledge-based contingency plan without reference to incident-specific values for the physicochemical properties of oils/HNS which control the parameters of fate, effects and response. However, range-values will now be introduced in continuance of this paper until incident-specific values are used in discussing the Sea Empress Incident as an example of belief-based response in paragraphs (58-67). As to range-values, we know that salvage and cargo/bunker transfer activities involve approaching and boarding the casualty with possible exposure to volatile oil components and individual/HNS. However, we also know3.4 that all such with boiling points 150C evaporate totally in 1 hour from fully extended floating layers of 0.1mm thickness; that oil components with boiling points 250C evaporate in 5 hours from such layers despite non-volatile oil components forming water-in-oil emulsions in the meantime. Again, by way of examples, we know that the single compound, nonane, evaporates entirely from a 0.1mm layer in 3 minutes and from a 1.0mm layer in 30 minutes; that while the former can produce a surface-proximate vapour concentration of 1.5%, the crude oil components up to nine carbon atoms may collectively account for 20-30% by weight; that consequently the air concentrations from equal-thickness layers are only one fifth to one quarter of those from nonane layers; that for hexane the corresponding concentrations are 1.8% and 0.09%, all compounds up to six carbon atoms accounting for only 5% of crude oils by weight; and that the lower explosive limits for nonane and hexane are 0.74% and 1.1% respectively.

32 Thus, we see that while vapours from such slicks burn in the open air when ignited, explosions are possible only in confined spaces where layer thicknesses may be sufficient to create saturated vapour pressures and dilutions thereof; that open-air approach to casualties through floating pollutant layers is not subject to this explosive risk and that sufficient knowledge has existed long enough for this quantifiable relationship between volatility, mass-transfer and concentration to have featured in contingency plans instead of taking their cue from so-called guide-books which symbolise everything with explosion and skull/cross-bone ikons regardless of exposure-concentration; and that action/inaction is best determined by knowledge of the relevant parameter values and locations of exposure (c.f. paragraph 9). Nonetheless, onboard and enclosed-space concentrations should be directly measured3,4,7.

The New Knowledge-Based Contingency and Incident-Specific Action Plans

Onboard Safety Equipment Exemplified.

33 As to personal protection and atmospheric detection, sampling and monitoring equipment for general use onboard casualties, readers may refer to the Manual7cited in paragraph 29 above.

The New Knowledge-Based Contingency and Incident-Specific Action Plans:

Seaborne Component.

34 Having referred to vapour concentrations from seaborne slicks in paragraphs 31 and 32, it should be added that released gases do not spread as do volatile floating liquids; that they are emitted as jets which dilute with entrained air to produce plumes with increasing vertical and horizontal cross sections with increasing distances from source; that nothing can be done to recover them; that gases are always transported in pressurised bottles/cylinders, and are consequently of localised effect if released; that otherwise natural gas is transported in specialised ships’ tanks none of which has so far been a casualty; that flammable gases can be flared at source; that otherwise, plume size, gas concentration and natural movement-induced dilution to safe levels can be modelled and measured for direct confirmation or modification of the model; and that evacuations of downwind populations may be necessary, though window-closure would be adequate where dilution by entrained air is satisfactorily advanced.

35 As to insoluble/soluble floating layers of oil/HNS at Phase II spreading thickness of 0.1mm, we know3,4 that non-volatile/non-soluble HNS disperse faster than non-volatile/non-soluble oils because the former have lower viscosities than the latter mixtures and do not increase their viscosities by forming emulsions with water; that the majority of non-soluble HNS have viscosities 5cSt and dispersion half-lives similar to petroleum distillates such as gasoline, kerosene and diesel of Oil Group I (c.f. paragraphs 10 and 38); that soluble HNS dissolve at rates determined by their individual solubility and mass-transfer coefficients; that solution continues until the floating layer thickness is completely dissolved or until the concentration of a saturated solution is attained in the surface-proximate layer; that HNS layer thicknesses of 0.1mm disperse/dissolve too fast to permit response; that the top meter’s maximum resulting concentrations are 100ppm, however rapid the dispersing/dissolving rate; and that this tends to zero with diffusion and turbulent dilution to greater depths while degrading to carbon dioxide and water if organic or diluting/neutralising if inorganic.

36 Again, we know3,4 that initial concentrations of rapidly dissolving HNS from other than spreading layers, can never be higher than those of their saturated solutions; that these also tend to zero with dilution/neutralisation to ever greater water column depths; that when the layer thickness and surface area of sunken oil/HNS depends on seabed configuration, localised dispersing/dissolving concentrations remain limited to those of proximate-surface saturation and again tend to zero with height within the water column. Yet again, we know that while greater layer thicknesses can continue to dissolve/disperse for longer periods, such thickness provides for greater rates of pumped recovery while their correspondingly smaller areas affect smaller volumes of water with their dispersion/solution. Thus we see again that action/inaction is determined by knowledge of physicochemical property values; that the physicochemical properties of the released oil/HNS should be ascertained as soon as possible, and that incident-specific values should be used thereafter in planning incident-specific response.

37 However, in more general terms, whether dealing with individual HNS or their mixtures which are crude and product oils, we know3,4 that individual or collective differences in viscosities, distillation profiles, pour points, melting points and densities determine whether they float or sink, the phase changes to be expected at ambient seawater temperatures, their percentage weight loss by evaporation, and the rate at which their emulsified non-volatile weight percentage disperses naturally into the water column, this last being best expressed by its half-life; and that the water-contents of these emulsions range from 65 – 80% for crude oils and from 40 – 50% for heavy fuel oils. Thus, for individual HNS, we know3 that density, solubility, viscosity, melting point and boiling point determine whether they float, sink, dissolve, disperse, solidify or evaporate and the rates at which they do so.

38 Thus, we recall that the percentage loss of volatiles and the half-life of naturally dispersing non-volatiles were first related to distillation profiles and viscosities by WSL through trial releases and observation at the Ekofisk Blow-out3,4; that ITOPF used the specific gravity ranges of 0.8, 0.8-0.85, 0.85-0.95, and 0.95 to arrange crude and product oils into Groups I-IV which recorded pour point, viscosity and evaporative loss percentages below 200C and above 375C for each oil, identified which would be solid at ambient temperatures, and used its wider spill experience to allocate half-life values and ranges to Groups I-IV of 4, 12, 24-48 and 48 hours; and that Cormack later extended Group IV to heavy fuel oils 1 – 3 of half-lives of 2-4, 4-6 and 6-8 days on the basis of the quantities reported by The Netherlands as having been released, recovered, and stranded during the Katina Incident4. Admittedly these half-life allocations are very imprecise, only that for Ekofisk oil having been directly observed for this purpose. Nonetheless, we see again that the values of physicochemical properties provide guidance as to the likely fate and effects of specific pollutants and response action/inaction to all of them (c.f. paragraphs 58-67), these values having been available to and from the oil and chemical industries long before any concerns arose as to releases of their feed-stocks and products to the sea.

39 Thus, when a casualty is reported, we see that the first step is to ascertain the specific cargo and bunker values for the physicochemical properties identified in the new contingency plan in order to compute the fate of the release(s) in terms of floating, evaporating, dispersing, dissolving, or sinking; that the second is to compute the release percentage which having evaporated, dispersed or dissolved is beyond treatment by any conceivable means; that the third is to compute the release percentage, adjusted for emulsion water-content, which remains for potential treatment by dispersants and/or recovery as a function of time and viscosity; that the fourth is to compute the dispersant/recovery efficiency to be expected given the viscosity value of the pollutant and the sea state; that the fifth is to compute the time available before the floating remainder strands under given conditions of wind and tide, movement being at 100% of the tide vector and ~ 3% of the wind vector; that the sixth is to compute the most effective dispersant/recovery means of minimising this residual stranding; that the seventh is to ensure maximum efficiency of deployment of these means; that the eighth is to compute the advantages/disadvantages of returning stranded pollutants to coastal waters for dispersion/recovery, given the release percentage which naturally dispersed at sea prior to stranding despite any efforts already made to disperse/recover it at sea; and that the ninth is to record all of the results of the above computations and their outcomes in reality, to secure such knowledge for existing staff and future replacements (c.f. paragraphs 58-67 and 72).

The New Knowledge-Based Contingency and Incident-Specific Action Plans

Sea and Airborne Equipment Exemplified.

40 As to the efficiency to be expected from dispersant treatment and mechanical recovery at sea, response staff should familiarise themselves with the knowledge of both as compiled in Cormack’s Column5 in the ISCO Newsletter and as reported earlier in two books3,4 on response to marine pollution. Apart from viscosity and waves, the main difficulty is the thinness of the pollutant layer which limits encounter rate to 0.18 m3h-1 per knot, per metre of swath width, per 0.1mm of slick thickness (Fay’s Phase II spreading). Again while layer thickness increases by up to a factor of 4 with emulsion water-contents of up to 80%, the oil-content remains that of the un-emulsified oil layer.

41 In the aftermath of the Torrey Canyon Incident of 1967, WSL designed a tug-mountable dispersant spraying system consisting of two rigid tubes, each with three equally spaced fan-jet nozzles which could be swung outboard on a bulwark-pivot to give continuous dispersant coverage beneath the tubes each of which towed, by wire-attachment, a set of three agitation boards (one per nozzle) in the style of 5-bar gates to disperse the dispersant-treated slick into the sea as droplets for natural dilution and biodegradation, the dispersant discharge rate being fixed at 20 gallons per minute over a swath width of 20 metres (two tube spans plus the tug’s beam) over a 0.1 mm thick slick at a dispersant : oil ratio of 1 : 2 for the then hydrocarbon based dispersants. Later, WSL converted this system to dilute dispersant concentrates with seawater in the ratio of 1:20 thus extending endurance between replenishments3,4 and subsequently used them undiluted from aircraft after trials over airfields had shown that nozzle-modification could give the droplet size-range needed for uniform slick coverage4.

42 Thus, from the late 1980s, it can be recalled3,4 that the UK’s initial provision of six Islander and two DC3 aircraft had a capacity of 14 tonnes per sortie and the ability to treat 5,000 tonnes of oil per day from replenishment bases at coastal intervals of 200 miles; that prior to 1996 the six Islanders had been replaced with five DC3s to raise the spraying capacity to 28 tonnes per sortie for a treatment rate of 10,000 tonnes per day; that a C130 with a capacity of 12 tonnes per sortie was also available for the Sea Empress Incident of 1996 ; and that the replenishment airfields of Haverfordwest and Cardiff were amply proximate to opposite ends of the target area at this incident (c.f. paragraphs 58-67). In addition, one of the aircraft was equipped with side-looking airborne radar (SLAR) and infrared and ultraviolet line scanners (IR/UVLS) which WSL had shown capable in combination of discriminating independently measured slick thicknesses sufficiently precisely to maximise the efficiency of dispersant spraying and/or mechanical recovery operations, but incapable of determining oil quantity precisely enough to convict for illegal oil discharge other than in areas of total prohibition.

43 Again, it can be recalled3,4 from the early 1980s, that the UK had three WSL Springsweep pollutant-recovery systems consisting of a 10 metre wide Troilboom mouth for continuous collection and a Renvac air-conveyor for transfer to onboard tank storage, these being intended for single-ship operation on RV Seaspring and on coastal tankers of opportunity and one Force Seven Oil Mop for operation on the after-deck of offshore supply ships of opportunity. Indeed, the initial Springsweep trials system with its Troilboom towed from the horizontally/orthogonally deployed forecastle mounted crane-jib of RV Seaspring and equipped with a floating hose and a deck mounted 4 inch Spate pump had collected 9 m3h-1 of 70% water-content emulsion from windrows at the Ekofisk Blow-out of 1976.

44 However, the new contingency plan leaves nation states to decide whether to maintain response equipment for use at sea on the basis of their own past experience. Ships undoubtedly move more slowly than aircraft and coastline-length is a consideration as seen by comparing, for example, the coastline of The Netherlands with that of the UK, while the alternative is to rely on cargo transfer, natural-dispersion, dispersant-use, inshore-recovery, return of stranded pollution to the sea for further dispersion/inshore recovery or onshore recovery for the highest viscosity pollutants.
The New Knowledge-Based Contingency and Incident-Specific Action Plans:
Onshore Component.

45 As to onshore response, we know3,4 that layer thickness can increase by factors of 10 -50 when emulsified slicks are pressed against shorelines by onshore winds while stranding on the ebb tide; that such layers can be collected from wet (poorly drained) sand beaches by water-flushing into trenches dug for recovery by viscosity-tolerant pumping; that stranded pollutant is otherwise difficult to separate from underlying beach material without specially designed separation-equipment, though heavy rubber strips attached to the lower-edge of mechanised scraper-blades can be effective on firm sand; that non-separated mixtures can be stabilised with addition of lime to form cement/concrete when suitable building projects are concurrent; that otherwise the options are in situ bioremediation, land-farming at oil refineries or return to the sea for resumption of the dispersion/degradation which reduces/prevents stranding in the first place; and that otherwise the recovery option not only requires pollutant/beach-material separation, but also collection of separated pollutant, temporary/intermediate storage, emulsion-breaking, oil-water separation, transportation, and outlets for recycling/disposal3,4.

46 Again, we know that the above operations are hampered by such belief-based regulation as insists for conformity with best-practice standards for the oil-content of discharged water despite the otherwise ad hoc nature of spill response under non-standard conditions; and that the oil thus separated for ‘recycling’ as a non-specific fuel has little or no resale value2‘3. Yet again, we know2,3 that the majority of HNS evaporate, disperse or dissolve much more rapidly than most oils and thus rarely if ever strand in other than packaged form or are salvaged in packaged form; that undamaged packages may be sent to their intended recipients; that damaged packages may be over-drummed to prevent release during further transport; and that unusable contents may be disposed of as waste chemicals, though combustion emissions are again unhelpfully subject to regulation/prohibition.

47 Thus, we know,3,4 that anything which strands in the released/exposed state is more trouble than it is worth; that ‘recycling’ costs more than the value recovered2; that such waste by definition should not be collected other than to remove pollutant which cannot be dispersed/diluted to degrade naturally because of its solidity or high viscosity; that the only cost-effective recycling is cargo/bunker transfer to a refinery or to the fuel or chemical use intended prior to the incident2; that releases from tank- or container-damage should be limited by transfer to secure containment; that blow-out releases should be limited by expeditious capping; and that responders to such limited releases should strive for maximum cost-effectiveness by maximising natural degradation to minimise commercial-loss and the coating of individual organisms, there being no other impacts of any significance at sea or onshore3,4.

48 Accordingly, the new contingency/incident-specific plans recognise that cargo/bunker transfer from casualties and efficient use of dispersant spraying and/or mechanical recovery at sea are the only means of shore protection other than the natural processes of dispersion, solution, dilution and degradation; that the natural processes far outweigh intervention by dispersant-use and/or mechanical recovery while at sea; that dispersant-use is subject to pollutant viscosity; that mechanical recovery is subject to wave-height and needs equipment designed specifically to cope with viscosity ranges beyond those which limit dispersant-use; and that such dispersant-use must be free of belief-based restrictions which have no basis in the reality which disperses, dissolves, dilutes and degrades all releases of oil/ HNS to carbon dioxide and water without the ecosystem impairment of environmentalist belief and indeed with the temporary food-chain enhancement which environmentalists choose to disbelieve.

49 Again, as to fish and shellfish contamination, the new planning approach recognises that oil-coated shellfish on shores and cultivation stakes and fish drawn in nets through floating slicks must be differentiated from depurated shellfish previously in contact with oil at concentrations in the ppm to ppb ranges and from free swimming fish which having derived no taint from such oil concentrations are netted through slick-free water surfaces; and that such differentiation would reduce compensation claims for fishing-interruption which have more to do with bans per se than with real contamination.

50 Yet again, the new approach recognises the benefit of returning stranded oils and emulsions to the sea by dispersing them into the surf line wherever possible to complete the sequence of natural dispersion, dilution and degradation to carbon dioxide and water which would have continued had stranding not intervened and which prevents the more dispersible/soluble releases of HNS from stranding at all. Again, where the rates of these natural processes are reduced by the sheltered nature of the shore, shoreline-type, or viscosity/solidity of pollutant, the new plans recognise that pollutant recovery is more multi-stage than dispersant treatment, even when achievable without initial co-collection of beach-material; that subsequent separation of such co-collections makes pollutant recovery less cost-effective than disposal of the co-collections to landfill were regulations to permit; that such co-collections must otherwise be bioremediated or transformed to building material; that even when emulsion is directly recovered or is separated from beach material, it must be broken to reduce viscosity to ease pumping and separated from its free and/or demulsified water to reduce transportation volume; and that this in turn introduces the need for API-type gravity separation before the water can be discharged to beach or sea under current regulations and before the separated oil can be refined as feedstock or burned as fuel. Clearly these multi-stage processes are avoidable by the cargo/bunker transfer which prevents release in the first place or by effective use of dispersants on releases,3,4.

The New Knowledge-Based Contingency and Incident-Specific Action Plans

Shoreline Types, Techniques, and Equipment Exemplified.

51 The more extensive knowledge-review now proceeding through the articles of Cormack’s Column5 in the ISCO Newsletter and intended to accompany the new contingency plan6 will identify all possible shoreline types and manmade structures to which pollutants (mostly oils and their emulsions) can adhere on stranding, the former being mangroves, coral, salt marshes, mud flats, sand, shingle, rocks and cliffs, and land-fast ice, the latter being such as harbour walls, marinas, esplanades etc. Yet again, this knowledge-review6 is listing the cleaning techniques and equipment appropriate in each case, these techniques being either chemical or physical. The former includes dispersants, surface film chemicals, thinning agents, emulsion-breakers and swelling/non-swelling absorbents, while the latter includes booms, skimmers, pumps, vacuum systems and air conveyers; screens, scrapers, graders, elevating buckets, and conveyer belts; beach material washers, lime mixers; oil/water separators, online static mixers, steam/hot water generators; and buckets, shovels and other hand tools at levels of detail appropriate to their intended use3,4.

52 In addition, the new planning approach recognises that while the need for shoreline and manmade-structure cleaning is infrequent, the parallel needs for inland spill response are daily occurrences though of comparatively small-scale; that this more or less continuous involvement of inland spill contractors is similar to that of salvage and cargo/bunker transfer contractors; and that provided all contract personnel are familiar with the new planning approach and its knowledge-review6, governments will be able to list such contractors in their copies of the new knowledge-based plan with all concerned being able to differentiate knowledge from beliefs counter to knowledge2.

53 Again, while leaving nation states/local authorities to decide how much shoreline response equipment to maintain centrally or locally, the new plan recognises that the circumscribing length of the UK coastline indicated an opportunity to augment with centralised stockpiles whatever resources local authorities had individually decided to stockpile for themselves.

54 As to dispersant spraying in inshore waters by local authorities, WSL designed a small-scale version of its tug mountable dispersant spraying system for use on shallow draught work-boats big enough to carry dispersant in the pillow-tanks used by tugs lacking integral tanks for this purpose, the application rate of the scaled-down inshore version being 7 gallons per minute. As to dispersant spraying onshore by local authorities, WSL replaced the tubes of the inshore spray-set with two operator-held lances which applied 7 gallons per minute over a swath width of 2 metres with actual coverage varying with walking speed in accord with the higher layer thicknesses encountered onshore.

55 Later, commercial equipment became available such as the Beachguard, Invictacat and Knapsack sprayers. Of these, the Beachguard (Chipman Chemical Company) was towed along the esplanade by a dispersant-loaded road tanker, or operated in conjunction with such from a car park or other beach-adjacent hard-standing while providing four operators each with a hand-lance and 100m of delivery hose so that they could individually and freely walk the beach while applying dispersant over 2 metre swath widths at a total application rate of 2,700 litres per hour. Again, the Invictacat was an eight-wheeled low tyre-pressure self-propelled vehicle designed for difficult terrain and having its own dispersant supply for application from a rigid tube on each side or to hand-lances by which operators on foot could go beyond the operational limits of the vehicle itself to apply 1,620 litres per hour over swath widths of 2 metres. Of course, these systems could vary speed or make repeat-passes to increase application for greater layer-thickness. Indeed, WSL showed that layer thicknesses compressed on stranding to 4-6mm could be successfully treated in this way ahead of incoming surf, provided the pollutant viscosity was thus amenable.

56 Yet again, the Cooper Pegler knapsack sprayer enabled its operator to apply dispersant in the most difficult terrain, while its low application rate of 135 litres per hour was appropriate for applying surface film chemicals to beaches at 8 litres per 100m2 at a swath width of 2m ahead of the incoming tide to prevent pollutant adhesion to the shore and thus aid re-floating,3,4. This equipment is also convenient for application of dispersant-gels to viscous pollutant adhering to vertical or inclined surfaces on which the gels can remain long enough to act before subsequent pollutant removal by water-washing. The most suitable gelling agents are non-ionic surfactants such as the alkyl phenyl ethers of poly-ethoxylated glycols. In practice, 9 gallons of dispersant are removed from a 45 gallon drum and replaced with 9 gallons of the gelling agent to produce a 20% solution, this then being mixed with seawater in a combined mixing-application jet in the ratio of 3:2. This mixing most easily achieved by feeding the two components from separate pressurised Knapsacks to the spray gun’s mixing chamber which has concentric inlets and flow-control valves for component adjustment to the desired gel consistency, an oxyacetylene welding torch being thus easily modified to serve as a spray gun3,4.

57 At this point it should be recorded3,4 that WSL found higher viscosities to be amenable to dispersant treatment onshore than at sea, presumably because the dispersant-pollutant contact times prior to wave agitation are longer in the former than the latter. Indeed, there is also the suggestion that the hydrocarbon (kerosene) carrier of the earlier dispersants reduced pollutant viscosity and thus facilitated dispersion, though the greater efficiency/volume ratio of the water-carried concentrates is essential to the use of aircraft for spraying at sea and onshore3,4.

The New Knowledge-Based Contingency and Incident Specific Action Plan:

Application to a Past Incident.

58 With no UK releases of oil/HNS having been significant enough between 1980 and 1996 for the foregoing knowledge to have achieved mass-balances for the total quantity released against the total of the quantities dispersed/recovered at sea, naturally dispersed at sea, and stranded, Cormack was nonetheless able in to determine knowledge-based mass-balances for incidents across the globe in adjudicating a series of salvage claims by comparing the quantify stranded, length of coast affected and response costs with those which would have arisen had the salvor not transferred cargo and bunkers as he did. This mass-balance approach4, is now used to contrast the new knowledge-based plans with the previous belief-based response to the Sea Empress Incident of 1996 as officially reported.

59 As to cargo/bunker transfer, we see that after the initial release of 5,000 tonnes on grounding in the mouth of Milford Haven, the new knowledge-based plan would have re-floated the Sea Empress for discharge at her intended destination or another within the Haven; and that environmentalist belief prevented such response while another 67,000 tonnes were released before fear of releasing another 58,000 tonnes over-rode this belief. Clearly, the new plan’s salvage component would have ensured its response components had little more to deal with than the initial release, even allowing for possible additional releases from the re-floating operation itself.

60 As to half-life, reference to Oil Groups I-IV would have shown that the viscosities of Ekofisk and Forties oil are respectively 4cSt and 8cSt at 15C, while they are respectively in Groups II and III on the basis of specific gravity. Thus, while the former would have a dispersion half-life of 12 hours as observed by WSL in Ekofisk trials and at the blow-out, ITOPF had allocated a half-life in the 24-48 hour range to Forties oil. Thus, this incident could have validated/refuted this allocation had those in charge of incident-response been so motivated. Again, the evaporative loss to be expected for Forties oil was 32% while that measured by WSL for Ekofisk oil was 25% both being consistent with their respective distillation profiles. However, while the half-life of Forties oil is difficult to determine retrospectively from the official reports, the value allocated to an incident-specific oil in Groups I-IV should in future be used to estimate the quantity likely to strand until actual stranding corrects it for further use, initial amounts being reduced to ~1% by the elapse of 7 half-lives3,4.

61 Further to belief, dispersant-use was prohibited within one mile of the shore, a very counter-environment restriction for Haven-located releases. Again, while the port authority’s two inshore catamarans recovered 1,275 tonnes (of oil) from water surfaces within the Haven, the six offshore vessels supplied by national governments recovered only 725 tonnes, though after the first ten days, inshore recovery-craft operating external to the Haven contributed some 600 tonnes of this by transference to offshore vessels for subsequent port-discharge. Yet again, the overall total was reported as 6,000 tonnes of 60% water-content emulsion while the usual 70-80% water-content would indicate only 1,500 tonnes of oil. Quantified reports on oil-recovery are always difficult to obtain if at all.

62 Further to belief-based reluctance to use dispersants, the official reports show that oil was coming ashore on the evening of 15 February; that despite the arrival of increasing quantities, only trial applications of 2 tonnes of dispersant were permitted on the 16th and 17th despite the Forties crude oil being dispersant-amenable with a viscosity of 9.6 cSt at 10C and the presence of the seven DC3s; that despite these advantages, only 29 tonnes of dispersant were applied on the 18th, 110 tonnes on the 19th, 57 tonnes on the 20th, 179 tonnes on the 21st, 66 tonnes on the 22nd and none thereafter, despite the total national spraying capacity (plus a part-time C130) having been present throughout (c.f. paragraph 42).

63 In contrast, we know that the 22,000 tonnes reported as having been released from 15-19 February, could have been treated by the initial six Islander/two DC3 combination; that the subsequent 50,000 tonnes could have been treated by the seven DC3/one C130 combination; that in any case, 50,000 tonnes of Forties crude oil (even when emulsified) reduces by natural dispersion to 25,000 tonnes in one half-life and to 12,500 tonnes in two half lives and so on (c.f. paragraphs 38 and 60); and that despite this natural assistance to the dispersant-aircraft and recovery-fleet, an estimated 3,000-5,000 tonnes were estimated to have stranded. Indeed, the officially reported times of individual releases and spraying sorties enable the computations integral to the new plan (c.f. paragraph 39) to show that only ~ 6,000 tonnes of oil were thus dispersed at sea, while some 24,000 tonnes of the 72,,000 released would have evaporated. Thus, we see and that the 48,000 tonnes remaining together with the quantities dispersed/recovered, left a balance of some 40,000 tonnes to have dispersed naturally, suggesting the elapse of 1.5 days on average before 5,000 tonnes would have stranded for a 12 hour half-life or of 3..75 days for a 30 hour half-life (c.f. paragraphs 38 & 60).

64 As to recovery, we know3,4 that the 10 metre swath of the Springsweep System can encounter/ recover ~2 tonnes of oil or ~ 8 tonnes of 80% water-content emulsion per hour at a speed of 1knot in a layer thickness of 0.1mm oil or 0.4mm of 80% emulsion; that it would recover 6 tonnes of an emulsion of 35% oil content (officially reported as 40%) and in windrow thickness, perhaps 18 tonnes (~6 tonnes of oil) per hour. Thus, we see that four such systems (c.f. paragraph 43) could collect ~ 240 tonnes of oil per ten hour day; and that the six systems present at the Sea Empress Incident could have been expected to recover 360 tonnes per ten hour day, 2,520 tonnes per 7-day week or 5,040 tonnes in the two weeks prior to terminal entry by the casualty. Alas, the result was only the 2,000 tonnes in total of which ~ 90% was recovered by inshore recovery units (c.f. paragraph 61). However, recovery of 5,040 tonnes of oil at sea would involve the processing of 15,000-20,000 tonnes of emulsion

65 As to shorelines, it was officially reported that from 3,000-5,000 tonnes of oil or 10,000 -15,000 tonnes of emulsion were stranded on some 200km of shoreline; that recovery operations thereon involved directing some 900 men to complete the task by Easter; that it was only judged complete after the second Easter had passed; and that the difficulties of separating pollutant from beach material, breaking emulsions and separating oil from water were now fraught with all manner of UK regulations inspired by environmentalist belief since the Eleni V had released its heavy fuel oil cargo in 1978.

66 However, given that inshore mechanical recovery had accounted for at least 1,875 tonnes of released oil while dispersant use had accounted for some 6,000 tonnes; we may conclude that had the salvage component of the new knowledge-based plan been applied to the Sea Empress Incident, 67,000 tonnes of oil would not have been released; that its seaborne response component would have dispersed the initial release of 5,000 tonnes or the ~3,000 tonnes un-recovered; that the onshore component could have dispersed the 10,000 -15,000 tonnes of emulsion reported to have stranded; and that this would have been achieved much more quickly/cost-effectively than it was recovered.

67 In general, the new knowledge-based plan recognises the beneficial nature of cargo/bunker transfer; dispersant-use at sea, inshore and onshore within pollutant-viscosity limits; of mechanical recovery at sea and inshore when dispersants are viscosity-limited; and of recovery onshore when this gives more rapid reinstatement than non-action/natural processes or dispersant-use However, as to recovery from shorelines, the new knowledge-based plan identifies of the essential futility of separating pollutant from beach material and the downstream processing needed prior to final disposal or so-called recycling and thus rejects belief-based prohibitions on dispersant-use and the belief-based regulations which needlessly encumber all downstream processing and disposal of recovered pollutants when viscosity renders these operations unavoidable.

The New Knowledge-Based Contingency and Incident-Specific Action Plan

Potential Application to the Deep Water Horizon Incident.

68 Having retrospectively applied the new knowledge-based approach to the Sea Empress Incident to illustrate the benefits of applying it directly to all future incidents, it would now be similarly illustrative to apply it retrospectively to that of the Deep Water Horizon. As to releases to the sea surface, we know that its crude oil distillation profile would have quantified the evaporated percentage, while its viscosity would have allocated a half-life for the natural dispersion of its non-volatile emulsion, would have indicated the effectiveness/non-effectiveness of dispersant-use and/or mechanical recovery at sea; and would have predicted the percentages to be expected onshore and their arrival times at known distances from source. Again, as to sub-surface releases, the distillation profile, viscosity and density could have predicted loss of volatiles and dispersion/dilution of plumes whether or not injected with dispersant, by comparison with the dispersion/dilution of gas plumes in the atmosphere for reality-evaluation by direct measurement to extend existing knowledge for future use. Thus, this incident should now be reviewed to these ends or at least to record yet another absence of species-extinction/ecological-disaster.

The New Knowledge-Based Contingency and Incident-Specific Action Plan:

Aspects Requiring Further Consideration.

69 Further to the relative likelihood of dispersion at sea or stranding onshore, we know3 that in the 1970s WSL could identify only fifteen HNS with viscosities 5 cSt; that of these the most viscous were mono-isopropanolamine (750cSt), branch-chain alkyl benzene sulphonates (600-700cSt), di-isopropanolamine (200cSt at 45C), and straight-chain alky benzene sulphonates (80-100cSt); that induced-dispersion/recovery would thus be unnecessary/impossible for the vast majority of HNS which would evaporate or disperse/dissolve too rapidly for such responses; and that such as could present quantifiable problems could thus be identified for incident-specific action within knowledge-based plans prior to any release. Thus, according to Oil Groups I-IV (paragraph 38), we know3 that the vast majority of HNS have half-lives of ~ 4 hours (Group I) while those identified above would have half-lives from 12-24 hours (Groups II – III) though the latter could be established more precisely for planning purposes by prior-incident experimentation or post-incident observation.

70 Again, apart from the oils identified as non-dispersing solids in Oil Groups I-IV, WSL could identify only 20 HNS melting within or above the global range of seawater temperatures, the latter being phthalic anhydride (mp 131.6C), chloro-acetic acid (63C), di-isopropylamine (44C), hexa-methylenediamine (41C) and phenol (40.9C). Again, such solids as could cause quantifiable problems should be identified for clarification of incident-specific action within the new response plans.

71 In any case, WSL noted as early as 1975 that the quantities of packaged HNS which could enter the sea were smaller than those from the integral tanks of bulk HNS shipment which in turn were smaller than those of the bulk shipment of oil; that while packages containerised on deck do enter the sea and may strand, the contents are not released unless the containment is damaged; that the quantities are too small to have other than localised and transient effects when released; and that it behoves those who believe in species-extinction/ecological-disaster to reality-evaluate their beliefs against the known concentrations to which only small numbers of organisms can be exposed in the real environment.

The New Knowledge-Based Contingency and Incident-Specific Action Plan:

Application to Future Incidents.

72 As to future incidents, we see that the knowledge-based physicochemical properties which control the fate and effect parameters and the salvage, onboard, seaborne and onshore response components of the new contingency plan will be allocated incident-specific values to determine all future incident-specific responses to ensure the most cost-effective outcomes and the lowest possible compensation claims; that this new knowledge-based approach will enable all future response actions to be evaluated retrospectively as exemplified for the Sea Empress Incident, and perhaps in due course for the Deep Water Horizon Incident; and that this retrospective incident-evaluation which records/ enhances knowledge and which preserves it against loss through inevitable staff changes, is the fifth component of the new knowledge-based approach.

The New Knowledge-Based Contingency and Incident-Specific Action Plan

Invitation to Accept Knowledge and to Refute/Validate Belief.

73 Having considered the extent to which beliefs in anthropogenic species-extinction, ecological-disaster and global warming are in conflict with knowledge of the properties of oil/HNS and of ecology, geology and oceanography, we now consider how environmentalist NGOs might go about converting these beliefs to hypotheses capable of reality-evaluation to positive or negative knowledge.

74 Thus, with regard to toxicity-concentration relationships of oil/HNS with exposed organisms, environmentalists are invited to accept that the limiting concentration for 50% death in test-populations (the LC50 value) is determined by raising exposure-concentrations to achieve this death level within the working day; that such concentrations have no relationship to those produced by dispersing/dissolving layers of pollutant in the marine environment (c.f. paragraph 35); that the critical body residue (CBR) approach is more realistic in measuring the whole-body concentrations associated with observed toxic effects and the exposure-concentrations needed to produce them. Indeed, this approach enables toxicity/non-toxicity to be directly recorded for exposure to real concentrations in the real environment. Thus, environmentalists are invited to record the toxicity/non-toxicity of oils/HNS and dispersants in sea and atmosphere at the exposure concentrations predicted by knowledge of their physicochemical properties and reality-validated by direct measurement for both trial and incident releases. In any case, no such species-extinction/ecological disaster has yet been observed in the real marine environment.

75 As to the surface-coating of individual birds and other organisms by floating or stranded slicks of oils and their emulsions, environmentalists are invited to accept that no such coating has ever been reported for HNS; that the significance of oil/emulsion coatings should be reality-evaluated by comparing the numbers thus dying from such incident-coating with the numbers born and dying annually in the maintenance of individual species numbers at current levels; that they should apply this principle of population-dynamics to all bird and other mobile species subject to surface-coating; and that they should desist from asserting species-extinction/ecological disaster until such quantified comparisons justify them. As to surface-coating of sedentary shoreline organisms, environmentalists are invited to accept that the best defence is pollutant dispersion at sea; that the biological/oxidative degradation of pollutants is faster in water than onshore; that stranded pollutant should thus be returned to the sea wherever physically possible; that shorelines are re-colonised as are scrubbed boat-slips by planktonic life-stages or as are weeded gardens by windborne seeds without any indication of species-extinction/ecological-disaster; and that whichever techniques most rapidly return commercial amenity enjoyment and fishing activity to pre-incident levels should be accordingly endorsed.

76 As to the relationship of beliefs in anthropogenic species-extinction, ecological-disaster and global warming, environmentalists are invited to accept that the biological carbon dioxide cycle absorbs carbon dioxide and water from the atmosphere by photosynthesis to form all plant matter on land and in the sea; that all animal matter depends ultimately on the plant matter as food source; that all animals respire food, whether of plant or animal origin, to carbon dioxide and water in generating energy while alive, as do all heat engines while active; that all plant and animal matter undergoes oxidative decay to carbon dioxide and water when dead unless oxygen-deprivation interrupts this decay to form natural gas, petroleum and coal; that micro-organisms at the bottom of the food-chain/ecological-system degrade all accessible organic matter, whether pre- or post-fossilisation, to carbon dioxide and water on land and in the sea without harm to themselves; and that combustion of fossil fuel returns to the atmosphere the carbon dioxide and water which would otherwise have been recycled through it by repetitious photosynthesis and bio-oxidative decay had it not been fossilised in the meantime.

77 Further to this relationship of beliefs, environmentalists are invited to accept that in the geological carbon-cycle tectonic plate-movement raises mountain ranges with abstraction of carbon dioxide and water to form carbonate rock while rivers transport weathered sediments to seafloors which tectonically sub-duct beneath continental margins in association with the volcanic activity which returns carbon dioxide and water to the atmosphere by decomposing the carbonates; that were this geological abstraction to occur with no atmospheric return, it would remove all carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and thus terminate photosynthesis and with it all plant, animal and human life; and that the suppression of the above knowledge in pursuit of global adjustment/redistribution of wealth to ever-widening belief-based ends is among the worst mistakes in human history against which belief-based interference with knowledge-based spill response is comparatively trivial though intimately related.

78 Thus, environmentalists are invited to reality-evaluate specific hypotheses towards quantifying the rates at which the biological and geological carbon dioxide cycles respond to changes in the rates of carbon dioxide abstraction and release within one or the other, the rate at which the abstraction of carbon dioxide by either or both responds to its release from fossil fuel combustion, and the rate at which global-averaged atmospheric temperatures would be predicted to rise with net increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration were such to be measured. Again, pending availability of such rate quantifications, environmentalist are invited to accept that global temperatures as measured on the Earth’s surface fail to correlate with atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations as measured, as estimated from the increase in fossil fuel combustion since the start of industrialisation, or as predicted by so-called mathematical modelling; that science takes a lack of correlation between models and reality as indicative of incomplete knowledge of the phenomena being modelled; that pseudoscience is content to ignore such lack or to ‘explain’ it by other belief-based correlations; that science seeks cause-effect relationships and otherwise treats correlations as fortuitous/spurious until reality-validated as to cause-effect; that pseudoscience mistakes belief-based correlations for knowledge; and that science makes no predictions when it can neither formulate a hypothesis nor reality-evaluate it. In any case, we do not yet know if atmospheric carbon dioxide is the cause of putative global warming or vice versa.

79 Thus, knowing species-extinction/ecological-disaster to be absent, we know that current knowledge can now finalise our new contingency and incident-specific action plans for response to releases of oil/HNS on the basis of knowledge-acceptance and belief-rejection as differentiated by the presence or absence of reality-evaluation2; and that reality-refutation of the above hypotheses as to surface-coating and exposure-concentrations will confirm the impossibility of species-extinction/ ecological-disaster whether or not we respond to releases of oil/HNS by ether or both of the current options. Again, knowing the planet to have experienced many warming and cooling periods before and after the inception of Homo sapiens, we also know that the anthropogenic global warning debate is irresolvable without conclusive knowledge one way or the other; that such resolution needs hypotheses capable of reality-evaluation2; and that pending satisfaction of this need, the debate now convulsing the MEPC can be set aside by agreeing to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by increasing fuel efficiency through engine and hull design whether member states believe or disbelieve in anthropogenic global warming. In any case, it seems unlikely that global temperatures could be changed by combusting part of a fossilisation but for which all of it would be recycling through the atmosphere as carbon dioxide within the natural biological and geological carbon dioxide cycles which sustain life on planet Earth..

Next Steps

80 ISCO invites the Technical Group:

-to note the position now reached in developing the new knowledge-based contingency and incident-specific action plans;
-to report this position to the Marine Environment Protection Committee;
-to invite the Committee to transmit the ISCO invitation to environmentalist NGOs to reject beliefs counter to knowledge or to reality-validate/reality-refute them lest any knowledge be omitted from the new knowledge-based contingency and incident-specific action plans; and
-to invite the Committee or member states to adopt or individually implement these new plans when completed as indicated above.


1 Knowledge-Based Response Planning, document OPRC-HNS/TG 13/5/5, 2012.
2 The Rational Trinity: Imagination, Belief and Knowledge, Douglas Cormack, Bright Pen, 2010 available from Amazon and Bookshops.
3 Response to Oil and Chemical Marine Pollution, D. Cormack, Applied Science Publishers, 1983.
4 Response to Marine Pollution – Review and Assessment, Douglas Cormack, Kluwer Academic, 1999.
5 Cormack’s Column in the ISCO Newsletter.
6 Document comprising the articles now appearing in Cormack’s Column.
7 Chemical Spill Response Manual, Wierd Koops and Marieke Zeinstra, NHL Hogeschool, 2011.
8 Computerised Data Base on oil/HNS, Koops and Zeinstra, in preparation