50 years working together against oil pollution from ships


An exhibition to showcase a success story

The International Maritime Organization (IMO),  the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Ltd (ITOPF) and the International oil Pollution Compensation Funds (IOPC Funds) Funds have launched an exhibition to mark 50 years of successful cooperation between government and industry to achieve a dramatic and sustained reduction in major oil spills from ships; to establish effective systems for preparedness and response if there is an incident and to create a comprehensive mechanism for providing compensation to those affected. It is a story to be proud of. 

The exhibition has been organized by IMO, IOPC Funds and ITOPF, with the support of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the International Group of Protection and Indemnity Associations (IGP&I), the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association (IPIECA), the International Salvage Union (ISU), the International Spill Control Organization (ISCO) and the Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF).

On this page, you can click to view a timeline and view the panels from the exhibition.

Interactive timeline

Exhibition panels

50 Years working together

In 1967, the grounding of Torrey Canyon focused the world's attention on the risks and environmental impact of major marine oil spills. Although this was by no means the first oil spill from a ship, with the size of oil tankers increasing throughout the 1950s and 60s, it was the largest spill at the time. The importance of this incident is not so much its immediate consequences, but its significance as a catalyst for positive change. Fifty years on, the result is a comprehensive regulatory framework, a demonstrably improved shipping industry, good systems of preparedness and response and adequate compensation for those affected by spills. 

To mark the important achievements since this incident, the nine partner organisations representing governments and the breadth of the oil, shipping and response industries, have come together to tell the story of the progress made in the last fifty years.

Major developments have occurred in three main areas

Prevention - includes improved safety of navigation, ship construction, training and risk reduction. Evidence from the last 50 years demonstrates how these important changes have successfully and dramatically reduced the number and volume of oil spills. Significant oil spills from tankers are a rare occurrence today.

Preparedness and Response - have continued to evolve as both awareness and technology have advanced and practical experience has led to a better response to spills when they occur.

Liability and Compensation Regimes - ensre that if there has been a ship-source oil spill, a robust system of compensation and liability is in place and that appropriate funding mechanisms exist to finance an immediate and efficient response and compensate those affected.

On a global scale, demand for oil remains strong. The pattern of trade changes as one country moves from being a net importer to a net exporter, as another’s
economy grows, and as trading partners fluctuate. In all of this, shipping remains the most effective means of meeting a country’s demand for oil. The partnership between government and industry in this global trade is as important now as it was at the beginning of our story.