Report: 36 shipwrecks may pose ‘oil pollution threat’

NOAA winnowed a huge list of 20,000 shipwrecks down to a priority 36 by looking at ships built after 1891, which is when ships began using fuel oil, as well as size and other criteria.

That helped chop the 20,000 shipwrecks down to 573 that merited more review.

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From there researchers applied a series of other filters to its review of information about sunken commercial and military ships to gauge the likelihood of lots of oil remaining onboard, and the ecological threat to marine resources posed.

“Risk factors include the total oil volume onboard as cargo or fuel, the type of oil, and the nature of the sinking event. For example, a vessel that was struck by multiple torpedoes would likely contain less oil than a vessel that sank in bad weather,” NOAA states in a summary.

Once the list was down to 87, NOAA concluded that 36 could have a “worst case discharge” in which all the remaining oil is released, and that 17 should be “considered for further assessment and feasibility of oil removal.”

“Now that we have analyzed this data, the Coast Guard will be able to evaluate NOAA’s recommendations and determine the most appropriate response to potential threats,” Symons said.