When oil spill occurs at sea, it spreads over the surface of the sea water, leaving a deadly impact on marine mammals, birds, the shore line and most importantly the ocean and the environment.
The cost to clean up an oil spill depends on the quantity and quality of oil discharged in the sea and is calculated on the basis of factors such as legal claims, money paid as penalties, loss of oil, repairs and cleanups, and the most important – loss of marine life and the effects on human health which cannot be measured against any amount.
As prevention is better than cure, in order to avoid the above mentioned monitory losses and primarily to avoid marine pollution and losses of marine species, a prevention plan is carried on board by almost all cruise and cargo vessel. This plan is known as SOPEP or ship oil pollution emergency plan.
As mentioned earlier, Sopep stands for Ship oil pollution emergency plan and as per the MARPOL 73/78 requirement under Annex I, all ships with 400 GT and above must carry an oil prevention plan as per the norms and guidelines laid down by International Maritime Organization under MEPC (Marine Environmental Protection Committee) act.
The Gross tonnage requirement for oil tanker, according to SOPEP, reduces to 150 GT as oil itself is a kind of cargo which doubles the risk of oil pollution.
Master of the ship is the overall in charge of the SOPEP of the ship, along with the chief officer as subordinate in charge for implementation of SOPEP on board. SOPEP also describes the plan for the master, officer and the crew of the ship to tackle various oil spill scenario that can occur on a ship. For oil tankers, action plan widens regarding the cargo handling and cargo tanks containing huge quantities of oil.
Contents of SOPEP
SOPEP contains the following things:
- The action plan contains duty of each crew member at the time of spill, including emergency muster and actions.
- SOPEP contains the general information about the ship and the owner of the ship etc.
- Steps and procedure to contain the discharge of oil into the sea using SOPEP equipments.
- On board Reporting procedure and requirement in case of oil spill is described.
- Authorities to contact and reporting requirements in case of oil spill are listed in SOPEP. Authorities like port state control, oil clean up team etc are to be notified.
- SOPEP includes drawing of various fuel lines, along with other oil lines on board vessel with positioning of vents, save all trays etc.
- General arrangement of ship is also listed in SOPEP, which includes location of all the oil tanks with capacity, content etc.
- The location of the SOPEP locker and contents of the locker with a list of inventory.
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