Modern ships are designed to survive bad weather and not to loose their cargo
Ships can carry up to 10,000 tonnes of fuel oil which is used to power the engines. This is called bunker oil. Ships must not allow any oil or oily substances to leak into the sea. Ships must be properly maintained to prevent oil leaks. Special precautions are also taken to prevent oil escaping when ships are in port taking on fuel oil.
Any oil or oily substance released by a ship into the sea or in a port is a serious offence. The offence is covered by State laws and Commonwealth laws. The owner of the ship and the ship’s master (person that controls the operation of the ship) and the ship’s engineers are held responsible. All ships in Australian waters can be fined for discharging oil or oily substances. Australian ships can be fined if they discharge oil anywhere at sea. Exemptions can be made for things like the ship being damaged.
Wave engulfing tanker
Special regulations apply to oil tankers (ships that carry crude oil or petrol) to ensure no cargo oil ever gets into the sea. If they wash their cargo tanks they must keep the oil waste on board and discharge it in port.
All ships must have an oil pollution emergency plan. When oil is spilled into the sea, the ship’s master must immediately inform the authorities.
When there is an oil spill and no one owns up or no one saw it happen, scientists can examine an oil sample from the spill and from ships known to have been in the area and track down the offending ship.