Those who have experienced a major oil
spill and seen the extent of its ecological and economic consequences
will unhesitatingly agree that no effort to help prevent another spill should
be overlooked. However, every effort has a price tag, which must be contrasted
with the progress expected. There is no miraculous cure-all solution.
Double hulls, for example, are effective in the event of scraping against a rock, a wreck or another vessel. However this measure does not protect against collisions at full speed, nor structural damage in bad weather conditions.
Risk reduction requires a sound combination of different measures: traffic separation schemes, traffic surveillance systems; double hulls or other comparable systems; checks carried out on vessels by the flag State and the port State; reinforcement of safety procedures onboard vessels, in pipelines, on platforms; high sea tugs permanently on standby, etc.
The relative efficiency of these different measures varies from one case
to another and the best choices are not always the same in every situation.
Implementing best choice options requires considerable determination. Accidents, through the emotion they generate, can offer the possibility of obtaining together the necessary budget and political will to generate new measures.
Sustaining the momentum to see through major changes in the years after an incident, when emotions have subsided, is a challenge. The Erika packages are a demonstration of that dynamic: their eventual implementation was catalysed by the Prestige incident.