Use of Sorbents for Spill Response: An Operational Guide, 2016 Edition (I686E)

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Published Date

January 2017

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Use of Sorbents for Spill Response: An Operational Guide, 2016 Edition (I686E)

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This guide provides practical guidance to operators that may consider the use of sorbents as part of response operations to accidental oil or chemical pollution. Subjects covered in the guide include sorbent types, specifications, particularities, regulations, deployment techniques, waste disposal and precautions of use.

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This practical guide dedicated to sorbents is an update of the operational guide published by the Centre of Documentation, Research and Experimentation on Accidental Water Pollution (CEDRE) on the “Use of Sorbents for spill response” (2009). The update was deemed necessary in light of the evolution in practice and knowledge of the subject, and the new information was structured to reflect the operational considerations and the practical use of sorbents.


As a practical guide, it also provides several examples of use of sorbents and case studies in some well-known spills including Erika and Prestige.


This guide was approved by the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) at its sixty-third session in 2012.



Purpose and structure of this guide


A Preparation Response plan

A1 Why use sorbents?

A2 How do sorbents work?

A3 What type of sorbents exist?

A4 Regulations

A5 Managing stockpiles

B Situation assessment

B1 When and where can sorbents be used?

B2 Selection Criteria

C Response

C1 Choosing sorbents for spills on land

C2 Choosing sorbents for floating spills on water

C3 Deploying bulk/loose sorbents (A)

C4 Deploying sorbent pads and rolls (B and C)

C5 Deploying sorbent pillows and booms (D and E)

C6 Deploying sorbent mops (F)

C7 Examples of use

C8 Deploying makeshift sorbents

C9 What quantities of sorbent are needed?

C10 What precautions must be taken?

C11 How are contaminated sorbents disposed of?

D Case studies

D1 Erika spill

D2 Prestige spill

D3 Rokia Delmas spill

D4 Ambès spill


Further information




Useful websites

A​​s a specialized agency of the United Nations, IMO is the global standard-setting authority for the safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping. Its main role is to create a regulatory framework for the shipping industry that is fair and effective, universally adopted and universally implemented.  

In other words, its role is to create a level playing-field so that ship operators cannot address their financial issues by simply cutting corners and compromising on safety, security and environmental performance. This approach also encourages innovation and efficiency.

Shipping is a truly international industry, and it can only operate effectively if the regulations and standards are themselves agreed, adopted and implemented on an international basis. And IMO is the forum at which this process takes place.

Title: Use of Sorbents for Spill Response: An Operational Guide, 2016 Edition (I686E)
Number of Pages: 61
Product Code: MM1427K
ISBN: ISBN 13: 9789280116175, ISBN 10: 9280116177
Published Date: January 2017
Weight: 0.40 kg
Author: IMO

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