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Oil & Fuel


Oil is the fastest source of deterioration to water bodies, being far more harmful than waste, including plastics, or black water. Oil spills can destroy wildlife and damage the ecosystems that sustain them.


Only about 5% of oil and fuel pollution in the water is from catastrophic spills, the majority comes from everyday sources such as refuelling, engine emissions and oil leaks. The legal limit for oil and fuel in water discharge is roughly one drop of oil in two litres of water (15mg/l). Anymore and wildlife and habitats can suffer.


The containment of spilt oil can prevent financial, legislative and environmental implications.


The use, transport and storage of oils and fuels are regulated and it is important that all boating facilities understand their legal responsibilities. This is primarily regulated through the Control Of Pollution (Oil Storage) Regulations.



  • Report incidents in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland on the 24 hour pollution hotline 0800 80 70 60
  • Follow all legal requirements
  • If relevant, put in place an incident response procedure, equipment and training for dealing with spills
  • Raise awareness and promote good practice



Tanks and Containers

  • Install fuel tanks at least 10 metres away from the water.
  • Position storage tanks away from any possible damage from traffic, and secure from vandals
  • Oil and fuel should not be stored on pontoons as the risk of pollution is greatly increased. Where this is unavoidable, discuss the necessary pollution prevention measures with your local EA/SEPA/NRW/EANI office
  • Install fuel tanks and pipework above ground whenever possible to enable regular maintenance checks to be carried out and leaks to be identified earlier
  • Containers must be of sufficient strength to avoid bursting or leakage under normal operating conditions and be securely stored within a secondary containment system (SCS) or bund
  • Protect underground pipe work from damage with detection measures in case of leaks. Mechanical joints need to have accessible inspection points.
  • Consult Defra or your local EA/SEPA/NRW/EANI office if you have to install storage tanks underground
  • Ensure fixed storage tanks cannot move from their base or float away in the event of unusually high tides or floods as this causes pipelines to break and oil to be spilled.
  • Avoid placing tanks in areas at risk from flooding. Contact your local Environment Agency, SEPA, NRW or EANI office to check if your tank is located in a flood plain


  • Bunds must be able to hold 110% of the largest container or 25% of total volume, whichever is larger
  • Ensure all valves, filters, sight gauges and pipe work are contained within the bund when not in use
  • Ensure single drums have a drip tray capable of containing 25% of its capacity
  • Ensure mobile bowsers are self-bunded, stored in a bund or have a drip tray
  • Ensure bunds are impermeable to water and oil, and do not contain any drainage valves
  • Bunds should be maintained and checked regularly


  • Maintain all delivery hoses, pipe work and trigger nozzles to a high standard and secure them to prevent unauthorised interference. Clearly display a notice providing advice on how to avoid spillages and what to do if they occur
  • Ensure flexible delivery pipes are kept within a bund and have a cut-off valve or lockable valve where it leaves the container. “Trigger” delivery nozzles with automatic cut-off on release are considered good practice
  • Locate dispensing facilities in an area where spills can be contained easily e.g. away from main river flows or heavy river traffic. When refuelling, vessels should be adjacent to the dispensing point to ensure no spills
  • Consider allocating a separate berth, which is used only for refuelling



  • Dispose of oil as hazardous waste in specialist containers so that it can be reconditioned
  • Provide oil recycling facilities for customers and tenants
  • Dispose of oily rags as hazardous waste
  • Find your nearest oil disposal centre:



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