Attempting to predict what oil spill response will be like in the future runs the risk, as with all predictions, of being proven wrong. However, several tendencies can be identified.

The public authority in charge of maritime security and pollution response in a coastal State should know at all times the exact situation involving a vessel in difficulty. Whether by using beacons, planes, helicopters or satellite data, it is required to be able to see and understand what is happening, in order to decide, if necessary, to intervene in time.

It is essential to be able to strike hard and fast at sea, without sparing resources, even if it means reducing them later. Response to the Prestige pollution clearly showed that response at sea can be far more than simply a symbolic front, as long as the circumstances grant it some time. Response at sea to a major pollution incident is a great expectation of shoreline economic operators and the general public. It can still provoke difficulties in terms of compensation of expenses incurred.

Drift prediction map of the fuel oil from the Prestige, 27 January 2003, Bay of Biscay



Reliable pollution follow-up and movement predictions are necessary. Onshore response leaders, politicians and the general public expect modern technology to be able to accurately state where, when and in what form drifting slicks will hit the shore. This is in order to have enough time to protect the sites which may be hit and to be able to enlist the available response means and workforce rapidly and efficiently.

Those in charge of response should not hesitate, where necessary, to temporarily close access to beaches or stop fishing, ban the sale of produce from marine cultures, or even destroy stocks of this produce. Based on the precautionary principle, society expects authorities to take all possible measures to protect users, professionals and consumers from all health risks.

Clean-up cannot be restricted to the spilt pollutant. Subsequently, environmental damages caused by the pollution and response operations should be repaired as far as possible. This applies to sites, to the flora and fauna and enters into the field of costs which may be reimbursed, as long as the work carried out remains reasonable in view of the damage suffered.

Wrecks need to be treated if the pollutant trapped inside represents a future risk, even if these wrecks are far from the coast and the risks several decades away, for the sake of future generations.

Oily waste and polluted debris collected during clean-up operations must be completely treated in suitable facilities without generating further pollution. Old temporary deposits should be cleaned and the areas restored without leaving oil or polluted debris anywhere. All access paths to the cleaned areas should be restored to their original state.