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Pollution in the Sea The Sea Empress Disaster February 1996.

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Presentation on theme: "Pollution in the Sea The Sea Empress Disaster February 1996."— Presentation transcript:

1 Pollution in the Sea The Sea Empress Disaster February 1996

2 Sea Empress The grounding of the Sea Empress in February 1996 caused one of the largest and most environmentally damaging oil spills in European history. About 72,000 tonnes of crude oil were released into the seas around the coast of South-West Wales, a region renowned for the beauty and diversity of its coastline.South-West Wales


4 The pollution was at its height during late February and early March of 1996 at which time huge slicks were at sea, and many shores were experiencing large-scale bulk oil pollution. By April, as a result of natural dispersion and the clean-up operation, little bulk oil remained at sea and many shores had regained a semblance of normalitypollution Autumnal storms remobilized buried oil, causing the temporary reappearance of sheens and tar balls on many beaches. This storm action accelerated the natural cleansing of the coast. By spring of 1997, few shores showed visible evidence of oiling. As for wildlife impacts, birds at sea were hit hard during the early weeks of the spill, resulting in thousands of casualtiesbirds at sea



7 The Grounding Of The Sea Empress On Thursday, February 15, 1996, the Spanish-built, Norwegian-owned, Cyprus- registered, Glasgow-managed, French-chartered, Russian-crewed, and Liberian- flagged Sea Empress struck the Milford Channel Rock in Milford Haven harbour, Wales. Nearly half the ship's cargo -- 70,000 tons of light crude oil -- spilled into the Irish Sea. The pilot (who came on board to help navigate the final part of the journey to the docks) had attempted to steer west of the rock, which lay in the middle of the harbour. A strong eastward-tugging tide arose, defeating his efforts to keep the 147,000-ton vessel clear. Before the collision, the captain and harbour pilot had not discussed or agreed upon a plan for their approach to the docks. The captain, the chief officer and the helmsman all spoke Russian and were not fluent in English, raising questions about possible communications problems between them and port officials onshore. When the Sea Empress ran aground, the official tug used in this area was down near Portugal 'on business'. So a Chinese tug - one of the most powerful in the world - which was nearby in Milford Haven at the time, was called out to help. But according to observers none of the crew members spoke English, and the Port Authority had to go and fetch a local Chinese restaurant owner to act as a translator. The tug was unable to free the Sea Empress.

8 For the whole of the next week more tugs arrived and rescue workers battled to free the stricken vessel and to stop the rapidly-spreading slick of toxic oil. But violent gales and falling tides kept the ship stuck fast on the rock. By the Sunday evening, when the weather began to worsen, the Sea Empress had been at St Anne's Head for three days. Yet she had still only spilled about 2,000 tonnes of oil. Over the next few days, as the ship lay on the rocks and was buffeted by storm-force winds, oil flooded out in massive quantities. By the following Thursday (eight days after the crash) when she finally limped into Milford Haven port - still under her own power - she had lost 72,000 tonnes of oil.

9 The Clean-Up Operation The Sea Empress clean-up operations were 'wide ranging and effective' according to a Government report. At sea these included dispersant spraying, mechanical recovery, and the use of protective booms and on shore, mechanical recovery, trenching, beach washing, and the use of dispersants. At the height of the response more than 50 vessels, 19 aircraft and 25 organisations were directly involved with 250 staff working on the response at sea and 950 working on the shoreline. A small shoreline clean-up team was still working 18 months after the spill. The total cost was approximately £23million. Some of the money came from insurance companies but the rest came from the UK government. The cost of the different options varied widely. For example, it cost: £60 per tonne of oil for spraying chemical dispersant on the sea surface; £2,000 per tonne of oil to have it removed from the sea surface by recovery ships; £9,000 per tonne of oil for the shoreline to be cleaned.


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