Marine Oil Terminal Engineering and Maintenance Standards

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 and monitors oil transfer operations seven days a week. Most marine oil terminals were built in the early 1900s when oil was carried by ships much smaller than the size of today's tankers, and before seismic safety standards and environmental review requirements were established.

The Marine Oil Terminal Engineering and Maintenance Standards, known as MOTEMS, are rigorous building standards designed to upgrade aging terminals to ensure better resistance to earthquakes, protect public health and the environment, and reduce the potential of an oil spill. MOTEMS are part of the California Building Code and apply to all marine oil terminals in California. They establish minimum engineering, inspection, and maintenance criteria for marine oil terminals to protect public health, safety and the environment.

  • 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 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, audit teams and the Commission.

    The “draft” Audit Manual templates (revised May 2004) are available upon request. Please note that these templates may require updates.

  • Post-Event Notification and Inspection

    MOTEMS Section 3102F.4.1 requires marine oil terminal operators to provide notification to the local area Division field office following a significant and potentially damage-causing event, such as an earthquake, storm, vessel impact, passing vessel incident, fire, explosion or tsunami. The notification shall include, at a minimum:

    • A brief description of the event
    • A brief description of the nature, extent and significance of any damage observed as a result of the event
    • The operational status and any required restrictions
    • A statement as to whether a Post-Event inspection will be carried out.

    If the marine oil terminal operator and/or Division determine that a post-event inspection is required, the terminal operator shall take actions as prescribed in MOTEMS Section 3102F.4. The primary purpose is to assess the integrity of structural, mechanical and electrical systems. This assessment will determine the operational status and/or any required remedial measures.

  • Case Studies

    The dynamic terminal industry, harsh marine environment and evolving petroleum engineering market make MOTEMS compliance an ongoing process. The following case studies provide a few examples of MOTEMS compliance projects:

  • Research, Articles and References

    The Commission strives to provide the best achievable protection of public health and safety and the environment. As part of this commitment the Commission has endorsed, and continues to undertake, research projects with industry-leading professionals to improve the MOTEMS regulations. Examples are below:

  • Other Applications

    The MOTEMS are one of the only comprehensive engineering standards for marine structures in the industry. MOTEMS is thus frequently applied to marine and waterfront facilities worldwide, regardless of whether the facilities transfer oil, are located in California, or are within the Commission's jurisdiction. Many standards, guidelines and other applications also reference versions of MOTEMS in part or whole. Examples of such applications include:

  • 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.

Get Updates

Information and Resources



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