The most common threat to marine ecosystem is the pollution emanating from human activities in the environment. Ships can pollute waterways and oceans in many ways. Oil spills can have devastating effects on marine life because it's toxic.
Oil spill litigations are always very expensive depending on factors such as quantity, type of oil, cost of cleaning up, effect on locals and marine life.
To manage the effect on marine ecosystem, the United Nations regulatory body for marine environment, International Maritime Organization (IMO) had a convention to regulate activities that pose threat to the marine ecosystem. The convention "MARPOL 73/78" is the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships. "MARPOL" is short for marine pollution, established in 1973 and modified by the protocol of 1978.
What is Shipboard Oil Pollution Emergency Plan (SOPEP)?
SOPEP can be defined as the plan consisting of procedures and descriptions of actions to be taken during an oil pollution incident.
The plan serves to guide ship’s personnel on dealing with an emergency situation that requires discharging oil. Its primary purpose is to set in motion the necessary actions to stop or minimize the discharge of oil and to mitigate its effects.
The purpose of the Plan is to provide the Master, officers and certain crew members with a practical guide to the prevention of oil spills and in carrying out the responsibilities associated with regulation 37 of Annex I to MARPOL 73/ 78
- Procedures to report an oil pollution incident
- Coastal State contacts (Focal Points) and Port Contact Lists to be contacted in the event of an oil pollution incident
- Response actions to reduce or control the discharge of oil following an incident
- Co-ordination with national and local Authorities in combating oil pollution
What are the content of SOPEP?
- General information about the ship such as ship owner, name of ship, size, pumping arrangement, section plan etc.
- Action plan with instructions for the oil pollution prevention team at the time of spill, including emergency muster and actions.
- Steps and Procedures to contain the discharge the oil into the sea using SOPEP equipments in accordance to MARPOL regulations.
- Procedure to be followed to report an oil pollution, by Master or other persons in charge of the vessel.
- Authorities to contact in oil spill emergency such as Port State Control, Oil Clean-up Team, etc.
- Diagram of various fuel lines, along with other oil lines on board vessel with positioning of vents, save all trays etc.
- Location of SOPEP locker with full inventory of the contents.
Common SOPEP equipment include:
- Oil boom
- Oil spill dispersants.
- Oil sweep
- Absorbent materials
- Oil sorbent socks
- Absorbent roll
- Absorbent granules
- Absorbent pads
- Empty receptacles (200 ltrs capacity)
- Oil Truckpack
- PVC protective gloves
- IMO disposable bags
- Non sparking hand pump (portable air driven pumps)
- Screw driver
The SOPEP locker must be stowed in an easily accessible locker, clearly marked, and is to be brought on deck ready for immediate use, prior to all bunkering operations.