Oils & Fuel Spills - Sailors for the Sea

Oils & Fuel Spills

Do you know what to do if you spill oil or fuel into the water? Learn the steps to take in case of a spill and how to prevent it from spreading. 

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What steps should you take if you spill fuel or oil into the water?

oil sheen, oil spill, fuel spill

1. First identify the cause and source of the spill and if possible, stop the source immediately. 

2. Notify the marina or fuel dock (if applicable), as they should have oil absorbent pads and booms to contain the spill. Dispose of used absorbent materials as hazardous waste.

3. Anytime a spill produces a sheen on the water, the U.S. Coast Guard National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802 must be notified. You may need to provide:

  • Location of incident
  • Cause or source of spill
  • Type and amountof fuel spilled
  • Level of danger or threat
  • Weather conditions at location

4. Absorbent socks, pads and pillows can be used in open-water spills to minimize damage while awaiting professional response after reporting the spill. Each spill will be handled differently, so it is best to get advice from the marina and/or the U.S. Coast Guard. 

oil spill, absorbent boom, fuel pads

5. Never use detergent or dish soap to make the spill disappear. Using dish soap dispersant does not get rid of the spill; it simply breaks it down into smaller droplets, making the spill harder to clean up and more toxic to marine life. 

With care, recreational boaters can take steps to mitigate the risk of accidentally spilling oil or fuel while operating their vessel. To prevent spills or accidental discharge, see the Spillproof Fueling and Bilge Maintenance sections.

absorbent boom, oil

Did you know?

  • One pint (2 cups) of oil released into the water can spread into a 1-acre oil slick, larger than a football field. (U.S. EPA)

Watch Now

Learn more about preventing oil pollution from your boat and other Green Boating topics in our video series.