Oil Spills in Öresund - Hazardous Events, Causes and Claims

Research output: Book/ReportReport


Öresund is one of the areas in the world with most ship movements. More than 40,000 ships pass through the sound in the direction north-south or the opposite every year. Other ships/ferries frequently cross the sound in the direction east-west or west-east. The ships carry goods and/or passengers in huge volumes. Since Öresund is a quite narrow sound with a difficult navigation situation, many risks of different kinds are at hand. The Öresund area is also a heavily populated area with many people living at the sound or quite near it. The consequences of an oil spill could therefore be severe to people, the environment and property.

The objectives of the study are to identify and analyse marine oil spill events in Öresund, to analyse the causes of those events, to estimate potential third-party claims for oil spill events in Öresund and to suggest some safety-increasing actions concerning oil spills in Öresund.

The study is confined to the risks of oil and oil products, including bunker oil, of marine transport and related activities in the Öresund area. Furthermore, when considering the claims, the cost of damage to/loss of ship and goods is not studied. Only third-party claims are considered.

Following a brief discussion of risk analysis and oil spills, a number of studies of risks in Öresund are presented. Then a description and characterization of the Öresund maritime situation is conducted. After that statistics on accidents and incidents in Öresund are collected and structured, and marine events and the causes of oil spills are analysed. Since statistics from Öresund are limited, world statistics on major oil spills and their claims are gathered and applied to the Öresund situation as well as oil spill statistics from the Baltic Sea. A recent oil spill accident, Baltic Carrier/Tern, which occurred on 29 March 2001 off the southern coast of Denmark, is used as illustration. Finally, different safety-increasing actions are discussed and suggested.

The following categories of initial events were directly liable for oil spills in Öresund: grounding, collision, contact, hull/watertightness failure and listing/capsizing. In the latter cases ships have foundered intact, assuming that a foundered ship might have caused an oil spill. There are many worldwide experiences where oil still leaks daily from ships sunk many years ago. Oil spills may also result from operating activities in ports/terminals, such as loading, discharging, bunkering and other operations. Deliberate or intentional oil discharges are also a concern.

The frequencies of events that have occurred in Öresund (1985-1999), causes, contributing factors and consequences thereof, share similarities and differences with oil spills events that have occurred around the world. Categories of events which led to oil spill were generally similar, but with different frequencies of contribution. Thus, the grounding events contributed to 60% of oil spills in Öresund compared to 32% of world major oil spills. Compared to worldwide events, "hull/watertight failure" and "foundering" events have occurred at a lower frequency in Öresund. Most of the marine events were the result of a combination of actions and circumstances, all of which contribute in varying degrees to the outcome. Causes and contributing factors of the above marine events were: human, technical, weather/sea and other related factors (such as vessel traffic) where the human related factor was dominant.

The third-party claim cost of the worst scenario of an oil spill in Öresund is estimated at $ 300 millions. The average risk cost of "large" oil spills each year in Öresund is estimated at US$ 223,500. However, this figure does not include "operational" oil spills resulting during loading, discharging, and other oil-related activities. Because of prices and "social" inflation, claims have increased over time. Higher claims are expected in the future. More than 20 suggestions for safety-increasing actions are presented and discussed in Chapter 8.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Business Administration
  • Transport Systems and Logistics


  • oil spills, Baltic Sea, dangerous goods, hazardous materials, marine environment, safety and health, maritime transport, Öresund, Sweden, accidents/incidents, claims.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherLund University Center for Risk Analysis and Management
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Publication categoryResearch

Publication series

ISSN (Print)1404-2983