Members of the International Salvage Union (ISU) provided 191 services to vessels carrying 2,538,210 tonnes of potentially polluting cargo and fuel during operations in 2020. It demonstrates the critical role of professional salvors in protecting the marine environment. The data come from the results of the ISU’s Annual Pollution Prevention Survey for operations in 2020.

President of the ISU, Richard Janssen, said: “Governments have talked for many years about zero tolerance for pollution, but society now demands it. Widespread public support for the environmental movement shows that care for the environment is now mainstream and has put it at the heart of political and economic decision making. ISU members have been preventing pollution for decades and we are proud of our great contribution to environmental protection.” 

The 2020 figures show a small increase from 2019’s total of 2.3 million tonnes. One or two VLCCs can have a significant impact on the overall numbers. For example, crude oil in 2020 was 360,733 tonnes, similar to 2019’s 400,000 tonnes while the equivalent in 2018 was 978,000 tonnes.

Cargoes of refined oil products also fell in 2020 to 112,096 – less than half of 2019 figure of 278,046 tones. At the same time, chemical cargoes nearly doubled to 133,150 tonnes in 2020. The number of containers involved in ISU members’ services in 2020 rose to 33,523 TEU up from 25,799 TEU in 2019. The number of containers in cases in 2020 equates to 502,845 tonnes (allowing a nominal 15 tonnes per TEU.)

Bulk cargoes decreased slightly to 744,246 tonnes in 2020. This category includes products such as coal, scrap steel, grains, soya and cement. A number of bulk cargoes are not included as potential pollutants and ISU members also provided services to bulkers carrying 521,326 tonnes of non-hazardous dry bulk – mainly metal ores. Bunker fuel, at 111,886 tonnes stays very similar to the 115,811 tonnes identified in cases in 2019 and remarkably similar to the 111,796 tonnes for 2018.

A number of the services noted in the survey did not record the quantity of bunkers or the cargo type. The survey does not include any of the cases for former ISU member Ardent.

Richard Janssen added: “The numbers, when compared with other years, show the variability of our industry. We are always transparent with the survey – we know that not all of these potential pollutants were at risk of going into the sea. Some cases will have had limited danger but many others will have carried a real risk of substantial environmental damage. Continued global provision of professional salvage services – those offered by members of the ISU – is essential.”   

2020 ISU Pollution Prevention Survey Results (tonnes)

  2020 2019
Number of services 191 214
Bunker fuel 111,886 115,811
Crude oil 360,733 400,000
Refined oil  products 112,096 278,046
Chemicals 133,150 70,944
Bulk polluting/hazardous 744,246 961,061
TEU – tonnes equivalent 502,845 (33,523 TEU@nominal 15 tones/TEU) 386,985 (25,799 TEU@nominal 15 tonnes/TEU)
Other pollutants 51,928 95,909
Totals 2,538,210 2,308,756
Bulk, non-polluting 521,326 229,731

Of the 191 services in 2020, variants of wreck removal/marine services contracts were used in 22 services; Lloyd’s Open Form – 34 services. Towage contracts accounted for 45 services; Japanese Form – 11 services; Fixed Price and Lump Sum – 7 services; Day Rate – 21 services and other contracts were used in 36 services. The Turkish Form was used in 15 services.

The survey was first conducted by ISU in 1994 and the methodology was updated in 2014 to include a wider range of potential pollutants including containers and hazardous and dirty bulk cargoes. The survey takes account of the International Convention on the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG Code), Intercargo guidance, P&I Club guidance; International Tanker Owners’ Pollution Federation publications and the International Solid Bulk Cargoes Code.

In the period 1994 to end-2020, ISU members have provided services to casualty vessels carrying 36,266,570 tonnes of potential pollutants, an average of 1.4 million tonnes per year.