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28 July 2023 Media Release: Oil spill sampling training and what you should know

Media Release:  Oil spill sampling training and what you should know

For Immediate Release
28 July 2023

A debriefing session was held by the Garden Route Disaster Management Centre (GRDMC) after the December 2022 oil droplet pollution along the Garden Route beaches. It was noted that there is a need for formal accredited training on correct oil pollution sampling procedures. The South African Maritime Safety Authority​ (SAMSA) managed to obtain the services of Mr Conor Bolas from International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Limited (ITOPF) to present this training.

On Wednesday, 26 July 2023, this training was presented via an on-line platform from their London Offices to more than 130 officials. ITOPF is a non-profit organisation that represents ship owners around the world and endorses a precise and operational response of oil spills, chemical spills, and any other hazardous substance spills in the marine environment.

In most cases spills occur within the ocean or coastal waters, however, they may also occur on land. Dr Bolas explained how the oil is broken down through a process called Chromatography; this process is a laboratory technique that separates a mixture into its original components. Once the oil has been tested, it is possible to know who is responsible for the oil spill based on the properties of the oil.

During the oil spill sampling training, valuable insights into best practices were received. The training, consisting of four sessions focused on Marine Spill Forensics.

Session 1 commenced with an introduction to ITOPF and the importance of sampling. The reasons for obtaining samples were thoroughly explained, and case studies were presented.

In session 2, Dr Bolas delved into understanding analysis, where a comprehensive overview of tests and standards was provided. To keep the session interactive, a quiz was conducted.

Session 3 covered potential complications and focused on sample considerations, including the required type, quantity, and quality. Additionally, other factors were explored such as laboratory capabilities, storage and shipping, oil weathering, legal aspects, and cost recovery.

Moving on to Session 4, various other factors were discussed, including the identification and monitoring of Hazardous and Noxious Substances (HNS), costs and compensation, taint testing, dispersants, wildfire and environmental monitoring. Emphasis was placed on sampling strategy, sample types, and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs).

In summary, Dr Bolas extensively covered the following topics:

  • The key reasons for sampling.
  • How to conduct proper sampling.
  • Types of analysis performed.
  • Understanding chemical fingerprinting.
  • Complicating factors in sampling.
  • Choosing appropriate analytes and considering the effects of weathering on samples.
  • Considerations for HNS and other specific circumstances.
  • Environmental monitoring and sampling.


Feature image:  Image of oil in water

Did you know: 

An oil spill is when liquid petroleum hydrocarbon is released into the environment because of human behaviour, particularly in marine areas. In most cases spills occur within the ocean or coastal waters, however, they may also occur on land.