Top 20 Major Oil Spills Since 1967


Maritime accidents have chronicled the existence of shipping operations throughout ages alongside the innumerable successes of the domain. Though technological advancements in the construction of vessels have made ships safer, several other factors have resulted in crippling negative effects on the marine environment and ecosystem

Oil spills in particular have been a cause of extreme concern, in spite of various safety protocols established for vessels equipped to transit crude and rock oil. Twenty such extremely distressing oil spill accidents, especially pertaining to post-1967, have been listed as under, each with such far-reaching effects that they still continue to haunt the global maritime industry.

1. Atlantic Empress: The collision of Atlantic Empress and the Aegean Captain and the resultant oil spillage is one of the biggest maritime casualties to have occurred.

In the month of July in 1979, these two crude carrying ships jarred against each other near the waters of the West Indian Island province, Tobago. Though the damages to the Aegean Captain and its rock oil cargo were able to be limited, the spillage caused by the Atlantic Empress reached to enormous proportions touching almost 3, 00,000 tons.

atlantic empress


2. Nowruz Oil Spillage: Though technically not an oil spilling incident to be caused aboard crude oil tankers, the Nowruz Oil Spillage is an isolated incident to have taken place on offshore oil drilling platforms.

Nowruz Oil Spillage

Dating back to the early 1980s, during the peak of the Iran-Iraq War, the oil spillage accident at the Nowruz oil reservoirs was caused by a combination of personnel negligence and war-time attacks on two different oil drilling platforms. In totality, the spillage amounted to over 2, 50,000 tons into the Persian Gulf and cost the lives of over 10 drilling personnel.

3. ABT Summer: The ABT Summer oil spillage is one of the most harrowing maritime calamities to have affected the domain. The incident occurred right at the start of the 1990s, while the vessel was positioned a few kilometers away from the Angolan coastline.

ABT Summer

An unprecedented detonation that actually triggered the incident, over 30 crewing personnel succumbed to the resultant en-kindling  The extent of the damages to the maritime ecosystem though have been said to be extremely minimal on account of the natural vaporization of the spilled oil in the high seas.

4. Castillo de Bellver: The Castillo de Bellver incident occurred near the South African waters in the early 1980s, when an unexplained flame caused the breakage of the vessel and thus, led to the spilling of crude oil in its cargo holds.

Castillo de Bellver

In terms of the casualties caused to the environment, the naturally occurring vaporization processes have been said to confine the casualties without any major problems to the ecosystem.

5. Amoco Cadiz: The destruction to the marine life-forms post the Amoco Cadiz accident in 1978 is regarded to be one of the most harrowing incidents in the maritime history.

Amoco Cadiz

The vessel spilled over 2, 20,000 tons of crude oil in the waters, quite close to the province of Brittany in France. The effects of the spillage soon touched even the British Channel Islands as cleaning operations were hampered by the rough weather and oceanic conditions. Several species of plants, marine mammals and other crustaceans were severely affected because of the spillage.

6. Haven: The Haven oil spilling accident happened in the early 1990s, near the Italian waters.


The Cyprian vessel spilled almost 1, 50,000 tons of rock oil, vestiges of which were found at sub-water depths over 1,500 feet. The accident also claimed the lives of six crewing personnel.

7. Odyssey: The Odyssey oil spillage occurred in the Northern Atlantic waters, quite close to the Canadian province of Nova Scotia.


Inclement weather conditions led caused the vessel to split into two, which resulted in a massive spillage of over 1, 30,000 tons into the already turbulent Northern Atlantic waters. The extent of the casualties to the marine environment wasn’t able to be immediately deciphered as cleaning operations suffered a setback because of the harsh climatic and oceanic conditions.

8. Sea Star: A jarring between two vessels, the Sea Star and the Horta Barbosa in the Arabian Sea (Gulf of Oman) resulted in the massive oil spilling from the cargo holds of the Sea Star.

Along with the loss and casualty to the marine ecosystem, the accident also caused human fatalities of 12 crewing personnel.

9. Irenes Serenade: The Irenes Serenade disaster occurred in the year 1980 when the Grecian vessel unexpectedly detonated while being moored for its refueling in the Bay of Navarino.

The extent of damages to the surrounding ecosystem was enormous as the Bay of Navarino was a well-known tourism destination. Following the accident, the panoramic beauty and tranquility of the destination was extensively hampered, though prompt cleaning operations by the Grecian government substantially reduced the impacts on the shores of the Bay.

10. Urquiola: A lesser-known yet no less powerful maritime disaster, the Urquiola crude carrier suffered an unprecedented mishap in the year 1976.


Running aground while leaving the harbor of La Coruna, several detonations occurred in the ship before it started to leak crude oil into the Spanish waters. Alongside exhaustive spillage, the accident also resulted in the loss of life of the ship’s skipper.

11. Hawaiian Patriot: The Hawaiian Patriot mishap occurred in the year 1977 when its hull developed a fissure on account of inclement weather conditions.

Though the spillage was tabulated to be around 1, 00,000 tons, the aftermaths following the maritime accident weren’t detrimental to the marine environment on account of the split oil’s natural vaporization.

12. Independenta: The Independenta mishap occurred in the late 1970s. The crude carrier vessel hit a cargo vessel in the Strait of Istanbul which resulted in a detonation, causing both vessels to erupt in flames.


Over 60,000 tonnes of crude oil was estimated to have been spilt in the Turkish waters while most of the crew personnel lost their lives while trying to escape the flames. The Independenta was one of the most discussed maritime disasters of its time on account of the global political scenario during the time-period.

13. Jakob Maersk: Jakob Maersk caused an oil spillage of over 50,000 tons when it ran aground near the Portuguese harbor of Leixoes.

Jakob Maersk

The spillage is however said to have been triggered when follow-through detonations to the initial grounding of the vessel, occurring in the engine compartment, spread to the cargo hatches. And while the cleaning operations were suitably prompt, various species of shellfishes and algae were adversely impacted by the marine disaster.

14. Braer: The Braer accident, which occurred in the waters of the Shetland Islands, brought forth mixed implications to the maritime ecosystem and the human populace in the Northern Atlantic islands of Shetlands.


In the year 1993, following the Braer oil spillage, the majority of the leaked oil had spread far and wide which affected the fishing sector quite gravely. For over half-a-decade, fishing activities were completely prohibited on account of high levels of oil toxins affecting the fishes and other fish species like crustaceans.

15. Khark Five (Khark 5): The Khark 5 disaster once again brought to prominence the adverse effects of transiting oil cargo through the precarious marine channels. The Khark Five exploded and burst into flames on the 19th of December in the year 1989 causing a huge spillage of around 70,000 tons near the Canary Island waters. Though rescuing operations helped in the prevention of human casualties, the fate of the ship depended largely in the hands of external cleaning operators who successfully helped to minimize the extent of damages.

16. Aegean Sea: A Grecian carrier vessel, the Aegean Sea grounded in the year 1992 while trying to gain entry into the harbor of La Coruna, near the waters of Galicia. The aftermath of the grounding caused the vessel to split into two whilst also causing a fire eruption aboard it.

Aegean Sea

Over 70,000 tons of rock oil was estimated to have been spilled into the Spanish waters from the vessel’s hatches, with several species of marine life-forms being severely impacted. The extent of the damages also caused panic among the citizens of the Spanish province, with smoke seeping inwards, into the metropolis, because of the fire aboard the vessel.

17. Sea Empress: The Sea Empress oil spillage resulted in over 70,000 tons of rock oil being leaked into the Welsh waters in the mid-1990s. Following the accident, extensive damages and casualties were reported to have occurred to the flora and fauna of the area.

Sea Empress

The economy of the province also suffered an impact considering that touristic activities and business-oriented piscatorial activities were prohibited for a considerable amount of time.

18. Katina P: Unlike other oil spillage casualties, the Katina P disaster was a purposefully induced disaster by the vessel’s skipper. The ship was purposefully run aground near the waters of the Mozambican province of Maputo in the year 1992.

Katina P

Untimely action to prevent the loss of crude oil resulted in a spillage of over 70,000 tons and massive environmental implications spread over various fragile locales. Want of knowledge about maritime recompensing and the absence of membership of Mozambique in the IMO prevented in the receiving of appropriate reimbursing for the damages caused.

19. Prestige: The oil spillage disaster of the Prestige vessel in the year 2002 caused over 63,000 tons of rock oil to be leaked into the Spanish waters.


The far-flung effects of the spillage resulted in various provinces across France and Britain to be contaminated with the leaked-oil toxins. Avenues like tourism and commerce-based piscatorial sectors suffered greatly as thorough prohibition was enforced in order to carry out efficient cleaning operations.

20. Exxon Valdez: One of the most infamous maritime disasters, the Exxon Valdez accident occurred in the Reef of Bligh in the Alaskan waters in the late-1980s. Innumerable varieties of animal life-forms and marine flora and fauna were destroyed in the chilling after-effects of the disaster, even though the United States’ governmental authorities undertook immediate steps with respect to the cleaning operations.

Exxon Valdez

Even now, after over 23 years of the oil spillage disaster, repercussions to the maritime ecosystem are being felt in the area and its surrounding geography which has substantiated the claim of several researchers about the long-term consequences to the Alaskan ecosystem.






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