Treating the wreck
Despite all the operations which may be carried out at the source during
a spill, if a vessel cannot be salvaged and sinks, significant quantities
of pollutant may remain imprisoned in the wreck. This trapped pollutant
is a potential future source of pollution.
For a long time, the prevailing principle was to do nothing, considering this risk of future pollution as a concern for future generations. Fortunately, this attitude has changed over the last few decades and it came to be established that a wreck should not be forgotten once response at sea is finished. Rather, it should be treated as soon as possible in order to reduce the risks of pollution to a minimum.
In 2000, 11,200 tonnes of fuel
oil were pumped out of the wreck of the Erika: a world record for the
quantity recovered from a sunken vessel in the open sea. This record was
later broken in 2004 by the 13,600 tonnes recovered from the wreck of the
Prestige, in waters over 3,500 m deep.