The Sea Empress oil disaster in February 1996 exposed the lack of a coordinated and structured response system for such incidents.
Two years after the tanker spilt its oil at Milford Haven, South Wales, the cost of the clean-up operation is still not known, impairing any insurance claim.
To stop this happening in future, British Maritime Technology is developing an Oil Spill Data Management System based on its CD-ROM-based account of the clean-up operation.
The CD, which is called Seris (Sea Empress Response Information System), is an example of extensive reverse engineering, and gives a detailed breakdown of the day-to-day clean-up operation.
It was developed at a cost of £250,000 to the Marine Pollution Control Unit. This sum can now be reclaimed from the insurers because the CD data will be used to corroborate the inurance claim.
A BMT spokesman said this was probably the best electronically documented oil spill ever.
BMT and AEA Technology have now been commissioned by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency Marine Pollution Unit to work on a comprehensive management system which will help in future disasters.
The project will cost about £100,000. If it is successful, the system could be used in future oil disasters, and will ensure that a complete record of the clean-up is kept fully up to date throughout the spill.