The most common type of pollution is by oil. However, P&I cover is not limited merely to oil pollution; any pollution which originates from or is caused by the ship is covered (e.g. smoke or garbage).
If you see or suspect pollution from your ship, the golden rule is to take action, no matter how small the pollution may be, even if you are not certain that your ship is to blame.
• investigate every allegation of pollution, not just allegations of oil pollution;
• suspend all pumping operations and close all valves in bilge, ballast, bunkering and cargo systems;
• inform port control, your owner or manager and the P&I correspondent – ask for a surveyor (if the port authority is carrying out an investigation, ask for a lawyer as well);
• if in US waters, make sure you follow the vessel’s response plan (tankers), otherwise follow the SOPEP
• identify other ships in the vicinity and underwater pipelines;
• if possible, identify the source and cause of the pollution;
• take photographs to show the extent of the pollution;
• if possible, collect samples, seal and date them;
• if the pollution originates from a tank overflow, obtain the following information from whoever was involved and write it down:
– sequence of events which led to the pollution;
– pump start and stop times;
– agreed pumping rate;
– tank volume;
– topping off procedure; – record of soundings.
• if the pollution has been caused by failure of ship’s equipment, assemble details of recent examinations, maintenance or tests, plus a test certificate if a flexible hose.