Over the past few decades, disastrous oil spills off coastal waters around the world have been some of the worst in history, destroying ecosystems and totalling billions of dollars in clean-up costs.


  • Since 1970 nearly six million tonnes of oil has been spilled into the marine environment from pipelines, tankers and other vessels, storage tanks, production rigs, barges and land transport.1
  • In December 2007, South Korea’s worst oil spill in over a decade dumped 10,900 tonnes of crude off its western coast when a Hong Kong supertanker was hit by a barge in rough seas.2
  • In August 2006, a Japanese oil tanker collided with a small cargo ship 470 kilometres off the coast of India spilling a whopping 1.4 million gallons of crude oil into the sea.3
  • The Philippines’ worst oil spill occurred in 2006 when a tanker sunk in rough seas leaving 320 kilometres of coastline covered in thick sludge from 53,000 gallons of bunker oil. An ecological time bomb, 475,000 gallons of oil remains on board the sunken tanker.4
  • In January 2006, a coal carrier spilled 6,600 gallons of oil in Gladstone harbour along the coast of Queensland, Australia making it the area’s worst spill in 30 years.5
  • The largest oil spill ever occurred during the 1991 Gulf war, when about 800,000 tonnes of crude oil was deliberately released by Iraq into the Persian Gulf. The oil slick was four inches thick and covered 4,000 square miles of ocean.6
  • Analysts for the Oil Spill Intelligence Report, who track oil spills of at least 10,000 gallons (34 tonnes), reported that spills in that size range have occurred in the waters of 112 nations since 1960. They also reported that oil spills happen more frequently in certain parts of the world and identified the following “hot spots” for oil spills from vessels7:
    • the Gulf of Mexico (267 spills)
    • the northeastern U.S. (140 spills)
    • the Mediterranean Sea (127 spills)
    • the Persian Gulf (108 spills)
    • the North Sea (75 spills)
    • Japan (60 spills)
    • the Baltic Sea (52 spills)
    • the United Kingdom and English Channel (49 spills)
    • Malaysia and Singapore (39 spills)
    • the west coast of France and north and west coasts of Spain (33 spills)
    • Korea (32 spills)

North America

  • According to Environment Canada, 12 oil spills of over 4,000 litres are reported each day (one of which is in navigable waters).
  • In November 2007, a container ship struck the Bay Bridge in San Francisco spilling 58,000 gallons of fuel oil into the water reaching beaches along the shoreline.8
  • It took more than 500 specialized personnel to clean up the devastation left by 44 oil spills totalling seven million gallons that leaked in Louisiana from industrial plants, storage depots and other facilities in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.9