Response and clean-up expenses

Response specialists, bird and mammal salvage teams, professionals and volunteers gather in the area affected by an oil spill. Specialised equipment and operators are called upon for response and clean-up. This major mobilisation of human and technical resources requires considerable, complex financing. The use of private means for slick surveillance and response at sea and on land (aircraft, fishing boats, public works equipment, agricultural equipment) adds further expenditure which can rapidly reach immense sums.

Two examples of costs

The 2004 annual report of the International
Oil Pollution Compensation Funds (IOPC Funds) positions the Erika’s case at 99.258 million Euros of clean-up costs and approved economic damages, with 65.883 million Euros still awaiting judgement for reimbursement. A further 334 million Euros of claims put on hold by the French State and Total should be added to these amounts. The sum total reaches an overall cost of a little over 499 million Euros, for 20,000 tonnes of fuel spilled, i.e. 25,000 Euros per tonne.

At the same date, the claims connected to the Prestige were calculated at 711.274 million Euros for Spain, 92.141 million for France and 3.305 for Portugal, giving a total of 806.72 million Euros for 63,000 tonnes of fuel spilled, i.e. 13,000 Euros per tonne.


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Who manages response?
(Data source: ITOPF)

The authorities in charge of the organisation of oil spill response differ from one country to another. Within Europe, the competent authorities can be divided into three broad categories. Certain countries have chosen to place the responsibility for oil spill response in the hands of the ministry responsible for defence or internal security, such as Belgium, Denmark, France and Sweden. For others, it may be the ministry associated with maritime affairs which is in charge of response, for instance in Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom. Finally, some countries have opted for the ministry for the environment, fisheries or natural resources, as is the case for Finland, Ireland, Italy and Norway.

Clean-up worksite

Further expenses may be incurred to replace fishing equipment that cannot be brought in due to the impossibility of going to sea or equipment that is too damaged to be reused, for example pumps whose motors have overheated and blown. These replacements are not always immediately available, causing further delays and therefore further loss of revenue. All these costs are part of the immediate damages caused by oil spills, claimed from the polluter and his insurers, by those who have incurred them.