Date of Award


Degree Type

Major Paper

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs


Responding to oil spills, even spills of moderate proportion, requires the commitment of substantial manpower and equipment on the part of the responsible party or the federal government. Throughout the response operation, successful spill management entails choosing the most effective and efficient countermeasures and cleanup techniques to remove or neutralize oil in the environment, minimize overall environmental damages from the spill, and insure that the objectives and expectations of government agencies, responsible parties, and the public are met. As the response progresses, effective and efficient management requires determining when response operations should be terminated. In making this decision, the On-Scene Coordinator (OSC) must deal with the complex "how clean is clean" (HCIC) issue, which requires an often subjective determination on when a point of diminishing returns has been reached in the cleanup effort. Beyond this point, further expenditure of resources will have little effect on preventing damage and/or accelerating recovery, and may cause more damage than if no further action is taken. Dealing with this issue often results in considerable controversy among the agencies and organizations involved in the response effort. The purpose of this treatment is not to rigorously define and resolve all of the processes and issues involved in effectively and efficiently managing oil spill cleanup and dealing with the "how clean is clean" issue. Rather, the objective is to characterize the current strategic doctrine and practice used in dealing with these spill management issues, and provide some insight into how this management process can be improved and supported.