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Some rare good news. Oil tanker spills into world oceans: there aren’t as many as there used to be, and they do not do as much damage as they used to do.

According to the excellent newsletter of the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation, both the number of oil spills and the quantity spilled has gone down significantly over the last 10 years. This is great progress, although all oil spills do damage, and even further reductions are needed.

ITOPF is a voluntary organization which provides pooled liability protection, funded by levies on bulk liquid cargo ships around the world.  It plays an important role both in preventing and in responding to marine oil spills. Its current priority areas are the Arctic and India, as well as spills of hazardous and noxious substances (HNS) and wreck removal.

ITOPF was established by tanker owners in the wake of the TORREY CANYON disaster, originally to administer a voluntary oil spill compensation agreement called TOVALOP (Tanker Owners Voluntary Agreement concerning Liability for Oil Pollution). The Agreement remained in place for some 27 years (up to 1997) pending widespread ratification of the Civil Liability Convention which provides compensation in the case of spills of persistent oil from tankers. Over this period ITOPF established a reputation as a source of objective technical advice for spills of oil and chemicals from ships. Although originally established by tanker owners, the growing proportion of fuel oil spills arising from other types of ship led to ITOPF extending its services to all ships in February 1999.

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