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Procedures for reporting oil spillage into the water

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When a ship is involved in an accident which results in the discharge or probable discharge of dangerous goods, harmful substances and/or marine pollutants resulting from damage to a ship or its equipment or to secure the safety of a ship or save life at sea, the master is obliged under the terms of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships 1973 (MARPOL 73/38) to report details of the incident. He needs to do this without delay, to the nearest coastal state utilizing the fastest telecommunications channel available and with the highest possible priority. The report should also be sent to the owner or operator of the ship.

The format and content of the initial report are given below. This format is consistent with the General Principles for Ship Reporting Systems and Ship Reporting Requirements, including Guidelines for Reporting Incidents Involving Dangerous Goods, Harmful Substances and/or Marine Pollutants, adopted as Resolution A.648(16) by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and it should, therefore, be followed so far as possible.

The report should contain the following information: Notes: The alphabetical reference letters in the above listing are from IMO Assembly Resolution A.648(16). The notes do not follow the complete alphabetical sequence as individual letters are used to designate information required for other reporting formats, e.g., those used to transmit route information. Specific details for items P and Q will vary depending on whether the cargo is defined as Dangerous Goods (DG), Harmful Substances (HS), or Marine Pollutants (MP). Reference should be made to IMO Assembly Resolution A.648(16).

Reports should be transmitted by the quickest available means to the responsible authorities of the nearest coastal state or the Rescue Co-ordination Centre (RCD) via the appropriate shore radio station. Should the ship be within or near an area for which a ship reporting system has been established, reports should be transmitted to the designated shore station.

The following additional information should be sent to the owner or operator either at the same time as the initial report or as soon as possible thereafter:
  1. Further details of damage to ship and equipment.
  2. Whether damage is still being sustained.
  3. Assessment of fire risk and precautions taken.
  4. Disposition of cargo on board and quantities involved.
  5. Number of casualties.
  6. Damage to other ships or property.
  7. Time (GMT) assistance was requested and time (GMT) assistance expected to arrive at the scene.
  8. Name of salvor and type of salvage equipment.
  9. Whether further assistance is required.
  10. Priority requirements for spare parts and other materials.
  11. Details of outside parties advised or aware of the incident.
  12. Any other important information.


After transmission of the information referred to above in the initial report, as much as possible of the information essential for the safeguarding of life and the protection of the ship and the marine environment should be reported in a supplementary report to the coastal state and the owner or operator, in order to keep them informed of the situation as the incident develops. This information should include items P, Q, R, S and X, as appropriate.

The master of any ship engaged in or requested to engage in an operation to render assistance or undertake salvage of a ship involved in an incident should report to the nearest coastal state, without delay, the particulars of the action undertaken or planned and, as far as practicable, items A, B, C (or D), M, P, Q, R, S, T, U and X of the standard reporting format.

Examples of reports

The following is an example of an initial report sent to the government of the coastal state and the owner or operator:

Message prefixed G.../01/291218Z

In the case of an oil spillage in a US port, ships master should report the fact to the terminal authority and the undermentioned government agency immediately.

The National Response Center(NRC)if the vessel is in US water
Washington,D.C.
Tel.(800)424-8802(24)
Coast GuardGovernment Official



If directly reporting to the NRC is not practicable, reports may be made to the Coast. Guard or Government Officials for the geographic area where the discharge occurred.

Contents of Reporting The above facts shall be entered in the Log Book and the Oil Record Book. In foreign ports reporting should be done to the appropriate local authority. The contact details are available in the SOPEP list of national and regional contacts.



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