The main sources of input of oil from land-based sources to the marine environment are
  • untreated or insufficiently treated municipal sewage and stormwater — urban runoff — from cars, machinery, spills at filling stations and garages, flushed-out residues of lubricants, etc. The stormwater contains waterborne and airborne pollutants; everything that is flushed onto or falls down upon the hard surface will become constituents of the contaminated stormwater: car exhausts, particles from worn tyres, small spills of oil from engines of different vehicles, small oil spills from garages, workshops, residues of oils and lubricants that we want to get rid of.
  • untreated or insufficiently treated waste water or stormwater from various coastal facilities: coastal industries, coastal refineries, coastal oil storage facilities, oil terminals, and reception facilities. Untreated stormwater from ports, refineries, oil storage facilities, oil terminals etc. especially oil terminals, has a high oil content that originates from valves, pumps, loading ramps for vehicles, quays, etc.
  • untreated waste water and residues discharged directly into rivers and with the rivers to the sea.

There is this constant, diffuse input of oil pollution from land-based sources. It is difficult to blame anyone in particular for the continuous"leakage" of oil from streets and rivers, like the large-scale marine "recreational" oil pollution caused by pleasure craft, because the blame falls on each and everyone of us. Consequently, a lot of oil goes literally down the drain from our towns and cities into the sea — either through a municipal sewage treatment plant, where it will harm the treatment process, or more or less untreated. When streets, roofs, handling areas in ports, and other hard surfaces are washed by rain and snow, the resulting waste water (stormwater) is flushed into the general sewer system or into storm drains along roadsides. If the sewage treatment is adequate, the stormwater and municipal sewage will both be treated. If no treatment plant exists, or treatment facilities are inadequate, the sewage, including the stormwater, will be discharged into the sea more or less uncleaned.

The first step is to locate and identify the many, many sources on land. The second step is to close those sources and thus prevent oils (hydrocarbons) to reach the marine environment through sewage, stormwater, industrial waste water, exhaust gases and rivers.


The objective of the UNEP GPA in relation to oils is to prevent, reduce and/or eliminate emissions and discharges from human activities in order to prevent, reduce and eliminate pollution caused by oil.

National actions, policies and measures

  • Development, compilation and maintenance of inventories of significant sources of oils, and subsequent assessment and establishment of areas (geographic or substance) for action. They should also, where appropriate, take into account inputs from long-range transport of these pollutants;
  • Development of comprehensive national programmes of action for the reduction and/or elimination of priority emissions and discharges from anthropogenic sources could include:
    • Targets, timetables, and sector-specific measures respecting the precautionary principle and applying best available techniques (BAT), best environmental practice (BEP), and integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC);
    • Fiscal and economic incentives and measures, including voluntary agreements, to encourage reductions in emissions and discharges of oils, to encourage the recycling of used lubricating oils, and to encourage fuel-use efficiencies;
    • The provision of reception and recycling facilities for oily wastes;
    • Development of plans and measures to prevent accidental releases of oils, particularly from coastal refineries, storage facilities and waste reception facilities and of capacities to respond to such accidents;
    • Establishment of cleaner production programmes in cooperation with industry;
    • Means to ensure the effective implementation of the programme of action;(c) Establishment of environmental monitoring programmes for oil, including the development of assessment criteria and the adoption of internationally accepted quality control and quality assurance procedures;
  • Establishment of environmental monitoring programmes for oil, including the development of assessment criteria and the adoption of internationally accepted quality control and quality assurance procedures;
  • Formulation and implementation of awareness and education campaigns for the public and industry to gain general recognition of the need and ways to reduce emissions and discharges of oil, and, in particular, to further reduce diffuse inputs through waste systems, including sewerage systems;
  • Establishment of information services for industry on technology and ways and means to prevent, reduce and eliminate pollution by oil, including best environmental practice (BEP), best available techniques (BAT), and integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC):
  • Promotion of private initiatives for the establishment and implementation of systems of internal environmental management within industry.

Regional actions

  • Encouraging existing regional agreements and programmes of action on the prevention and elimination of pollution of the marine and coastal environment from land-based activities, to develop or continue to develop and implement programmes and measures to reduce and/or eliminate emissions and discharges of oils from the appropriate industrial sectors, products and groups of products;
  • Adoption of programmes and measures on the development of harmonized assessment criteria and monitoring programmes based on regionally or internationally agreed quality control and quality assurance procedures;
  • Encouraging States, including land-locked States, that are not already parties to regional seas arrangements regarding the protection of the marine and coastal environment from land-based activities, to join such cooperation and to cooperate on bilateral and multilateral basis in the control of pollution from oil;
  • Promoting cooperation on the development of cleaner- production programmes, best available techniques, and best environmental practice;
  • Development of regional plans and measures to prevent accidental releases of oils, and development of regional capacities to respond to such accidents;
  • Where appropriate, the provision of regional reception and recycling facilities for oily wastes.


The EU has a set of common rules on the permitting of industrial installations (1996 IPPC Directive; . IPPC stands for Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control). In essence, the IPPC Directive is about minimising pollution from various point sources throughout the European Union. All installations covered by Annex I of the Directive are required to obtain an authorisation (permit) from the authorities in the EU countries. Unless they have a permit, they are not allowed to operate. The permits must be based on the concept of Best Available Techniques (or BAT). See the reference documents.

  • There are plenty of things that you as an individual can do — or rather make sure that you don't do. Become oil-wise!
  • As you can see from the list of land-based sources and activities, and also from the sea-based sources when it is a matter of recreational boating, individuals and households can certainly contribute to the important efforts to minimize the input of hydrocarbons/oils to the marine environment.
  • Be very careful with what you do with oil-containing waste from your household. Don't flush it in the sewers or pour it into the storm sewer systems — street gutters and storm water systems still often drain directly to lake, streams, rivers, and wetlands. Clean up spilled oil on the ground and don't hose it into the street, where they can eventually reach local streams and lakes.
  • If you are in charge of a workplace where oil products are handled, either as the main activity or as part of other activities, introduce routines for recovering, storing and disposing of used oils and other residues in a safe and environmentally-friendly way. Out of sight might be out of mind, but the oil you pour into sewers and storm water systems will not disappear, only cause damage somewhere else.
  • Leave used engine oil for recycling. If your community doesn't supply services for recovery and recycling, find other ways of at least storing the used oil in a safe place instead of pouring it into sewers or street gutters.
  • If you have a motor boat (leisure craft) with a two-strike engine, replace that engine with a four-stroke engine! As you can see from the list of sea-based sources of oil to the marine environment, two-strike engines are quite terrible in that respect.
  • Reduce your private consumption of fossil fuels, including oils, by using collective means of transportation whenever possible. If you have a car, be careful with maintenance (older cars do not necessarily have to drib and drab oil on streets, or "burn oil" instead of petrol/gas).
  • Learn more about all the places and activities in everyday life where oil products are handled and used. The more you know about all the possible land-based and sea-based sources of oil, and how easily oil actually enters the marine environment because of ignorance or negligence, the more you can also see ways of avoiding pollution — and guide other people to do the right thing.