Marine Oil Terminal Engineering and Maintenance Standards

Photo of Pier 3 by Tom Paiva

There are approximately 34 marine oil terminals in California where nearly two million barrels of oil and petroleum products are transferred over water (between ship and shore) daily. The Commission regulates all marine oil terminals in California, including enforcement of state building standards.. Most marine oil terminals in California were built in the early 1900s when oil was carried by ships much smaller than the size of today's tankers, and before modern seismic safety standards and environmental review requirements were established.

The Marine Oil Terminal Engineering and Maintenance Standards, known as MOTEMS, are rigorous building standards adopted to upgrade aging and design new terminals to ensure better resistance to earthquakes, protect public health and the environment, and reduce the potential of an oil spill. The MOTEMS, as part of the California Building Code (24 CCR, Chapter 31F et. seq), apply to all marine oil terminals in California, and establish minimum engineering, inspection, and maintenance criteria for marine oil terminals to protect public health, safety and the environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the Commission issue permits for MOTEMS (or California Building Code) compliance purposes?
No. In accordance with Section 1.14 in Chapter 1, Division 1 of the California Building Code (California Code of Regulations, Title 24, Part 2), the Commission is the “enforcing agency” for the Chapter 31F - Marine Oil Terminals. The Commission is not a permitting agency and does not perform tasks such as permit processing or issuance, construction inspection, etc.

We are exploring siting of a new marine oil terminal in California.  What do we need to know about MOTEMS?
New marine oil terminals and new berthing systems are required to have MOTEMS compliant evaluations (analyses and designs) prior to construction, and to complete an initial audit prior to commencement or recommencement of operations. Potential new terminal operators are strongly encouraged to initiate communications with the Commission at the inception of the project.


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Additional Information

Audit Manual and Checklists

The MOTEMS Audit Manual provides a structured template for methodically documenting a marine oil terminal's characteristics and assessing compliance during MOTEMS audits. The Manual is a compilation of 11 Checklists, one for each substantive Division/Section of MOTEMS. While not required for MOTEMS compliance purposes, these checklists have proven to be useful tools for compliance assessment and communications between terminal owners and operators, MOTEMS audit teams, and the Commission.

The "draft" MOTEMS Audit Manual templates (revised May 5, 2017) are available upon request. Please note that these templates may require updates.



Senior Engineer
Dr. Avinash Nafday, P.E. (562) 499-6312