19 March 2014

The International Salvage Union (ISU) today announced the results of its annual Pollution Prevention Survey for 2013. The total quantity of pollutants salved by ISU members – nearly three quarters of a million tonnes – was slightly less than in 2012 although the overall picture is consistent over the two years. The 2012 numbers included a small number of substantial coal cargoes under the “other” category. In 2013 there were more, but smaller and more varied, cargoes salved in the “other” category. There was a marginal increase in the number of services performed by ISU members compared with the previous year.

The total of all pollutants salved in 2013 was 718,602 tonnes compared with 810,068 tonnes in 2012. It is a decrease of 11%. The average annual figure for the 19 years for which data is available is a little below one million tonnes of potential pollutants salved per year. It mirrors the trend of a decreasing number of casualties which chiefly reflects improvements to ship and operational safety over the past two decades.

In 2013 the major change was a significant increase in the quantity of oil cargoes (crude and refined products) salved, up 58% from 104,665 tonnes to 165,395 tonnes. However, this category is highly variable and can be dramatically affected by one or two large cargoes. Another notable increase was in chemicals salved – up 49% from 99,015 to 147,987 tonnes. Again, this category may be affected by a small number of large casualties.

The quantity of “other” cargoes salved went down by 40% from 501,348 tonnes in 2012 to 299,074 in 2013. This category included coal in bulk in 2012 for the first time and there were two large coal cargoes included in that year’s numbers. The 2013 “other” quantity represents a greater number of smaller and more varied “other” cargoes.

There were 190 services carried out by ISU members. The Japanese contract was the most widely used with 54 services, many of which were relatively small cases involving fishing vessels. The Lloyd’s Open Form salvage contract accounted for 44 services compared with 52 in the previous year. 31 services were carried out under towage contracts (32 in 2012); Wreck contracts accounted for 31 of the services (42 in 2012) and fixed price, day rate and other types of contract were used in 30 services.

2013 ISU Pollution Prevention Results

  2013 2012 % variation
Number of services 190 188 + 1.1%
Oil cargo salved 165,395 104,665 +58%
Bunker fuel salved 106,146 105,058 +1%
Chemicals salved 147,987 99,015 +49%
Other pollutants 299,074 501,348 -40%
Totals 718,602 810,068 -11%

All figures in tonnes

Commenting on the results, ISU President, Leendert Muller said: “Our members are to be congratulated on the huge quantity of potential pollutants that they salved last year – nearly three quarters of a million tonnes. Keep in mind that the in United States’ worst environmental disaster, 700,000 tonnes of oil was released into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 from the Macondo Well.

“We are always careful to say that not all of the potential pollutants which were salved were at imminent risk of spilling into the sea but it is certainly right to ask what might have happened in many of these cases if there had been no salvor available to provide response services. There can be no doubt that the work of ISU members has continued to be of great benefit in helping to protect the marine environment from potential damage.

“As ever, the survey reminds us how variable our industry can be. A small number of large cargoes can cause significant differences year on year. But everyone connected with the shipping industry should be aware that just one major casualty could cause an environmental disaster.”

The ISU’s Pollution Prevention Survey began in 1994. In the 19 years to end-2013, ISU members have salved 18,575,702 tonnes of potential pollutants, an average of just under one million tonnes per year. This consists of 13,142,007 tonnes of oil cargoes; 1,307,706 tonnes of chemicals; 1,616,101 tonnes of bunker fuel and 2,818,565 tonnes of “other pollutants”.