Spills On The Sea - Response Procedure

Bermuda maintains a National Oil Spill Contingency Plan to address major spills of oil to our marine environment. The detailed National Plan is Available Here: 

In the event of a spill of oil, fuel or other products into the sea or coastline, do not attempt to tackle or go near the spill unless you are trained to do so in a safe manner.

If the spill is ‘Gasoline’, NEVER attempt to contain or collect it.

If you decide to respond, please follow these priorities:

  • Ensure the public is safe and, if you are not trained to respond, wait for first responders.
  • Isolate the source of the spill, but only if it’s safe to do so
  • Contact Bermuda Maritime Operations Centre (MAROPS): 
    Tel: 297-1010,
    Fax: 297-1530, 
    Email: dutyofficer@marops.bm,
    VHF: Channel #16  
  • DO NOT apply dispersants, detergents or other products (see below) unless you have been given permission on the day by a representative of the Department of Environment & Natural Resources (DENR).  
  • Refer to your local Oil Spill Response Plan (if available) and only use local oil spill response equipment (see below) if you have been trained to use it and if it is safe to do so.

Reporting Process

You should report a spill as soon as possible after observing it. If you can, provide the following information to MAROPS.

  • Time and approximate location/extent of the spill.
  • Is the source of the spill known? (Vessel name, person name, describe any actions witnessed).
  • Has the source of the spill been isolated? (i.e. via shut-off valve, etc.).
  • Is the type of oil/fuel/product known?  Can the volume spilled be estimated?
  • Describe the spill
    • Appearance: Sheen (Rainbow/grey/silver), Metallic (reflection of the sky), black or brown oil. Patches of spill or windrows blown by the wind?
    • Odour: Gasoline, Diesel, no odour, etc.
    • Take photos (if safe to do so) and email to pollutioncontrol@gov.bm
  • Describe the spill - Odour:  Gasoline, Diesel, no odour, etc.
  • Weather conditions on scene including tidal changes. Is the spill blowing onto shore or out to sea?
  • Your name and contact details.

The Bermuda Maritime Operations Centre (MAROPS) is the primary notification body for spills of fuels, oils or other toxic chemicals that enter directly into the sea or that have the potential to reach the sea from spill sites located on land.  Once MAROPS has been notified they will contact the appropriate responders to assist with the containment, clean-up and/or recovery of the spilled fuel or chemical.  You should familiarise yourself with this document and locate it where it is easily accessible and understood by employees or other visitors to the site.

Spills of oils, fuels and other toxic chemicals are harmful to the marine environment and public health and can damage property.  Use of dispersants, detergents and other products on fuel/oil spills can be even more harmful to corals and other marine organisms than the chemicals within the spill itself. This is because such products cause the fuel/oil to mix more readily with the water column, exposing more organisms to the contaminants. It is consequently important to recover as much of a spill as possible in order to help reduce the environmental impact.   
If you cause or observe a spill you should report it immediately so that the appropriate response can be mobilised.  Fuels, oils and other toxic chemicals that are spilled onto land can percolate down through Bermuda’s permeable limestone to the water table (groundwater) where it can subsequently migrate to near-shore environment and into the sea. Being mindful of the potential extent of any spill is therefore important with respect to ensuring that all suitable responders are notified at the earliest convenience.

Does your facility need a local Oil Spill Response Plan?
For advice on marine pollution, preparing a local oil spill response plan and understanding the appropriate equipment and consumables to locate at your facility, then please contact the Pollution Control Section of DENR.  Note that procuring items for oil spill response has zero percent (0%) import duty (CPC 4195).

Disposal Note: Adsorbent boom, pads, pillows, blankets that have become oiled as a result of spill response can be disposed of in the black bag garbage waste sent to Tynes Bay Waste to Energy Facility (TBWEF).  Ensure that the bags are transported on polythene-lined surfaces on trucks to contain any spilled oil and to prevent losses to the road surface. If the amount of oil adsorbent boom is greater than 1 cubic metre in volume then check with the Tynes Bay Waste Management Section of the Ministry of Public Works (MPW) (Tel: 296-0673).

Dispersants, Detergents and other Products
The following chemical/product types that are designed to treat or disperse spills/slicks on the water surface shall not be applied without prior permission from DENR.  Many of the products listed below can be more toxic to corals and other marine life than the spilled chemical they are trying to address.

  • Dispersants - chemicals which, when applied to oil floating on the surface of the sea, greatly increase the rate of dispersal and therefore breakdown of the oil.
  • Surface cleaners - chemicals which, when applied to oil-covered hard surfaces, increase the rate of dispersal from the surface, aiding cleaning.
  • Bioremediation products - these contain, or enhance the growth of, oil-degrading bacteria.
  • Loose sorbents - usually in the form of powder, granules or beads which absorb oil.
  • Degreasers - products used for cleaning grease from machinery of ships and marine structures.

Local Spill Response Equipment
Equipment that can be used to control, contain or recover spilled oil that does not require any permission from DENR to deploy include:

  • Booms - barriers that sit on the surface of the water and block the movement of floating pollution, protecting certain areas, and making mechanical recovery of pollutants such as oil much more effective. Booms work best in calm conditions where oil and water do not splash over or move under the boom. *Remember* - Never attempt to contain a spill of Gasoline!
  • Skimmers - machines that separate liquids or matter from the surface of a water body.
  • Sorbent mats, pads, blankets or rolls – materials that have oil adsorbing properties, sometimes containing adsorbent products, usually in the form of granules or beads, within the outer material.

Note: if you have deployed the above equipment into the sea then it is your responsibility to recover these items.  Do not deploy loose items to the sea without a means of containing or recovering them after deployment.  It is important to ensure that marine pollution salvage and clean-up operations do not cause unnecessary damage to the environment.
Roles and Responsibilities with respect to spill response:

  • Receiving Spill Notification: M&P MAROPS
  • Notifying relevant response parties: M&P MAROPS
  • Spill Response & Clean-up: DENR- Pollution Control, Fisheries Sections, M&P,
    The Royal Bermuda Regiment, Marine Police, BFRS, MPW Waste Management Section
  • Environmental Monitoring: DENR-Pollution Control Section
  • Human Health Impacts: Dept. of Health
  • Fisheries interests: DENR- Fisheries Section
  • Wildlife Conservation/Oiled Wildlife: DENR Sections, Marine Conservation,
    Terrestrial Conservation, Biodiversity, BAMZ Sections
  • Recovery of wrecked vessels: M&P
  • Disposal of wrecked vessels: MPW-Waste Management Section, Dept. of Parks