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Seaborne Petrochemical Spill Analysis Within the United States, 1992–1999

CSS Publication Number

Through discussion of causative factors and examination of historical data, petrochemical spill prevention in US waters is reviewed. Unintentional petrochemical outflow is analyzed in a comprehensive manner and presented as a hierarchical sequence of antecedent events to reveal the trends of causative factors leading to release. Specifically, a seaborne petrochemical spill is examined in terms of four basic, antecedent events: (1) an underway source, (2) a failure incident, (3) a marine accident capable of breaching the hull and cargo block, and (4) the onset of outflow. These events are further subdivided into underlying, contributing events to form a causative framework for spill prevention. While a hierarchical review is not necessary to uncover the elements of causation, it does provide a comprehensive and logical structure that clearly defines these elements in terms of occurrence frequency and contribution to resulting outflow. It is found that relatively small, frequent spills less than 40,000 liters (10,567 gallons), attributable to human operator failures, leading to grounding, and cargo transfer system failure accidents, dominate US seaborne petrochemical outflow from 1992 to 1999. Given the frequency of groundings, structural reinforcement regulations such as those contained in the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (requiring double hulls) appear well justified. However, passive restraint systems are secondary to the need for vigilant training and licensing of tank vessel operators.

Anastassios N. Perakis
Research Areas
Urban Systems and Built Environment
Water Resources
Marine environmental protection, Marine pollution prevention, Oil spills, Petrochemical outflow, Tank vessel accidents
Publication Type
Journal Article
Digital Object Identifier
Full Citation
Nicholson, Benjamin L.; Perakis, Anastassios N.; Bulkley, Jonathan W. “Seaborne Petrochemical Spill Analysis Within the United States, 1992–1999.” Environmental Management, 31(4): (2003) 0532-0545.