Various kinds of pollution that affect the oceans, spills from oil tankers rank as one of the most challenging to clean up. There is no one method for handling all situations, but there are general techniques that apply to many kinds of spills.
Aerial reconnaissance often is necessary to determine the extent of an oil spill, whether it occurs in the open ocean or near the coast. The aerial survey provides information about the nature of the spill and sites along the coast in immediate danger.
To directly deal with the spill, floating barriers called booms are placed around the spill to contain it. These allow skimmers, which can be boats, vacuum machines, or oil-absorbent ropes, to collect the oil into containers. Chemical dispersants also may be applied to break down the oil and render it less harmful. In some situations, it may be best for the fresh spill to be ignited, although burning poses its own hazards and creates pollution.
If the oil reaches the shore, other cleaning methods are deployed. These include pressurized water hoses and vacuum trucks, as well as the dispersal of absorbent materials. At times the sand is removed to another site, cleaned, and returned to the beach.
Rescue efforts on behalf of oil-coated sea and shore birds and mammals requires carefully washing them with a mild detergent, such as dish washing liquid. This painstaking Jo involves much human effort, often by dedicated volunteers, and offers no guarantee for the survival of the affected animals.