Effective Techniques to Cleanup Oil Spills

Oil spills from marine craft cause significant damage to the local environment, and every naval operator should take every step to prevent spills from occurring in the first place. However, accidents cannot be prevented forever as equipment ages and attention wanes.

As a result, it is important that any vessel, large or small, has a team equipped with the knowledge of how to prevent these spills, the damage one will cause and how to clean any event, whether it’s a large spill into the ocean or a small one just on deck.

Read on to discover how to better equip yourself at marine supply stores to care for your vessel and the environment.

Mechanical Containment and Recovery Methods

This is the most labour-intensive response, requiring significant manpower and equipment, such as oil booms, to resolve the spill. Oil booms successfully contain the loose oil using three components: a freeboard, a skirt, and a connecting cable. Together, they create a near complete containment zone around the spill. While this method must be implemented quickly before the spill spreads too far, it is highly effective at containing the problem once installed.

While most people are familiar with the larger oil booms being used during oil rig disasters, there are more portable options for commercial vessels. Commercial vessels use absorbent booms as a quick and easy method of containment. If an accident occurs, they are quickly deployable and the oleophilic materials they are made of take in the oil from the water for later disposal.

Chemical Dispersants and Surface Washing

Chemical dispersants are substances created to break down oil molecules and prevent large collections from accumulating. This supports the water’s natural attempts to disperse the liquid and enhance biodegradation by increasing the surface area available for microbial action.

Surface washing involves using chemical agents to clean oil from solid surfaces such as ship hulls and hard natural objects. It has a similar effect at breaking down (or emulsifying) the oil so it can be rinsed off and dispersed without effect. Surface washing is particularly useful in removing oil from areas where mechanical recovery is impractical. This same emulsifying technology is also used as part of engine boiler maintenance as a boiler coagulant, which helps eliminate built-up sludge and oil contamination collecting and causing breakdowns in your vessel’s engine.

Biological Remediation

Biological remediation, also known as bioremediation, focuses on natural processes and organisms to degrade and remove oil contaminants from the environment. Think of it as an upgrade from the emulsifying agents discussed previously.

This approach focuses on microorganisms metabolising and breaking down hydrocarbons, facilitating the restoration of affected marine and coastal ecosystems. Bioremediation is a sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to more conventional mechanical and chemical methods.

Bioremediation techniques are broadly classified into two categories. Bioaugmentation uses specific strains of microorganisms that were cultured in lab environments, whilst biostimulation supports natural organisms at the site of the spill. Both methods aim to enhance the natural degradation processes of oil by indigenous or introduced microorganisms.

How to Avoid Oil Spills from Your Ship

Effective ship maintenance is critical in preventing oil spills and mitigating the environmental risks of oil spills. Whilst comprehensive maintenance is always helpful for ensuring the longevity of your marine assets, there are specific areas that need attention to avoid oil spills.

Engines and auxiliary machinery should undergo routine servicing, including oil changes, filter replacements, and system checks. Properly maintained engines are less likely to suffer from oil leaks due to component failure. Installing and maintaining leak detection systems, such as oil mist detectors and bilge alarms, ensures early detection of potential leaks, allowing for prompt corrective action.

Ensuring the integrity of ballast water tanks and associated piping systems is vital to prevent contamination of ballast water with oil, which can result in illegal discharges. Implementing ballast water treatment and monitoring systems helps manage and control the quality of ballast water, reducing the risk of oil pollution.

Crew training and competency are fundamental to effective ship maintenance. Providing comprehensive training for crew members on maintenance procedures and best practices ensures that maintenance tasks are performed correctly and efficiently. Training crew in emergency response procedures, including spill containment and cleanup, enhances their ability to manage and mitigate spills promptly and effectively.

Effective Marine Supply Products at Offshore Supply

Regular vessel maintenance is the best way to deal with oil spills, as it ensures your craft is never a contributor. In addition to our advice on how to handle an event, we highly recommend a detailed program of preventative maintenance with qualified technicians equipped with reliably high-quality marine supply products for maintenance and emergency repairs.

Contact us for any enquiry or advice; by staying proactive, you will enjoy many years of safe and environmentally friendly sailing.