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Preventing oil spillage - Notes on Oily Water Separators / Oil Record Books



An Oil Spill harms both the earth’s ecosystem and the economy. With large numbers of people living and depending on coastal areas for fishing and tourism throughout the world, the consequences of oil spills are very serious and so are the ensuing penalties. The fate, behavior and environmental effects of spilled oil can vary, depending upon the type and amount of material spilled.

In general, lighter refined petroleum products such as diesel oil and gasoline are more likely to mix in the water column and are more toxic to marine life, but tend to evaporate more quickly and do not persist long in the environment.

Heavier crude or fuel oil, while of less immediate toxicity, can remain on the water surface or stranded on the shoreline for much longer.

Shipboard Oil Pollution Emergency Plan (SOPEP) gives comprehensive advice on actions to be taken in event of an oil pollution accident.

Oil Pollution Prevention on board is achieved through:

• Use of Oil Filtering Equipment in machinery spaces of all ships
• Use of ODMCS (Oil Discharge Monitoring & Control System) on Tankers
• Incineration of Oily waste and Sludge (and also their shore disposal)

Note :
The correct filling of oil handling records is described in
“Procedures for Oil Record Book entry”
“Procedures for Oil Record Book entry in Machinery Space”
“Procedures for cargo record in Tankers oil record book”

Other precautions to prevent oil pollution include but are not limited to:

• Structural safeguards, for example double hull, bunker tank swash bulkheads on certain ships, etc

• Loading, carriage and discharge of oil cargo as per Manual

• Handling of F.O. and D.O as per Manual

• Keeping deck scuppers plugged in port at all times

• Regular inspection of oil piping and associated equipment / structures

• Extreme care in handling and disposal of any kind of oil, like incineration of used cooking oil from galley

• Regular training of crew in oil pollution drills and in keeping machinery and other equipment free of any oil leakage

When Oily sludge / oily water from E/R is disposed off to shore reception facilities as necessary, receipt is to be obtained and filed in the Oil Record Book. Oily sludge may also be incinerated on board, at sea.


Notes on Oily Water Separators / Oil Record Books

A case in the United States of America in which criminal charges were made against a major ship management company has highlighted the need for total compliance and solid record keeping. The case involved violations regarding the operation of the Oily Water Separator (OWS) and inaccurate/wrong entries in the Oil Record Book. The fact that such violations can occur outside USA waters is of no interest to the USA authorities and they will take legal action regardless.

As you will be aware, PSC inspectors are focusing their attention on Oil Record Book entries and on OWS equipment. They can also become suspicious when they see what they believe may be evidence of tampering with the OWS and associated equipment. This includes pipeline and flanges that show signs of being opened, removed or even freshly painted. While such signs maybe totally innocent, it is up to those onboard to prove that this is indeed the case.

All pipework associated with the OWS, the oily bilge system, emergency bilge suction line, bilge shore discharge connections, overboard connections for the GS system and boiler blow-down overboard connection are to be correctly identified and labelled. For the sake of good order, please check that the following has been carried out on board your vessel.

Firstly a drawing showing the layout of the above should be available. On this drawing all valves and flanges are identified and given a number. This drawing should be attached to the Oil Record Book (ORB).

All numbered flanges identified in the drawing should have had a small hole (about 5mm) drilled through in order to accommodate the fitting of a security seal. Each seal has a unique number and a form should be available to identify the flange number against the seal number. The date and time of fitting the seal should also be recorded as well as the date and time of the seal being broken including the reason for same.

No seal should be broken without the joint permission of the Master and Chief Engineer. This form should also be attached to the ORB. Meanwhile you are reminded that any maintenance or repair to the OWS must be recorded in the ORB.

Other initiatives that should have been adopted are as follows:

• The overboard discharge of the OWS should be coated internally with a suitable light colour epoxy coating. The reason for this is that uncoated pipes can react to corrosion and can result in what looks like a black oily residue adhering to the walls of the pipe. Some inspectors jump to the conclusion that this is oil. A light epoxy coating will prevent such corrosion and any discolouration caused by other sources will be readily apparent if the pipe is opened up for inspection.

• An interlock should have been fitted in order to prevent the improper use of flushing water diluting the oily water mixture running through the measuring cell. In other words when flushing water is used to clean the measuring cell, the interlock stops any oily water mixture from being discharged overboard.

• A spare set of OWS filter elements must be available onboard at all times.

Good and accurate records must be maintained regarding the carriage and disposal of waste oil. This includes sludge production and transfer as well as actual quantities of sludge burned in the incinerator. Regular checks of the figures in the engine room sounding books and the ORB are to be made to ensure that they tally correctly.

Duty Engineer Officer as well as the Chief Engineer should sign off each entry in the ORB. Good record keeping and sound procedures will help protect yourselves, the Owners and the Company from potential problems (and even legal action) that may arise from a Port State Control inspection.



Related articles

  1. Marpol annex I - Preventing pollution by oil -Notes on Oily Water Separators


  2. Marpol Annex II -Noxious Liquid Substances in Bulk


  3. Marpol annex III -Pollution by other harmful substances & harmful packaged goods


  4. Marpol annex IV - Prohibition on Sewage Discharge


  5. Marpol annex V - Pollution by garbage


  6. Marpol annex VI - Pollution by air


  7. Prohibition on use of harmful (TBT) anti-fouling paints


  8. Pollution by ballast water


  9. Prevention of pollution while carrying out overboard maintenance


  10. Environment friendly purchasing


  11. Environmental awareness


  12. Burning of heavy fuel oil & diesel oil - Environmental impacts




Preventing air pollution various guideline:






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