The Sea Empress Oil Spill Disaster – One of the Worst Oil Spillage Disasters

The Sea Empress disaster, which occurred in the year 1996, is one of the worst maritime oil spill disasters at the sea. The maritime accident occurred along the coast of Pembrokeshire in Wales, specifically at the entryway to the water-body of Milford Haven and the oil spillage which resulted from the disaster is caused great harm to the marine life in the area.



Cause of Accident

The oil disaster occurred on the 15th February, exactly 16-years ago in Wales in Great Britain. The vessel Sea Express was responsible for ferrying crude oil – over 1, 00,000 tonnes – to the refinery (Texaco) located in the county of Pembroke.

The major cause of the vessel’s unprecedented accident is regarded to be the current pull of the oceanic water. Though the weather conditions were perfect at the time of the vessel’s traversing, the vessel was travelling in the opposite direction to the prevailing current.

Because of the current pull, the vessel was veered from its intended route and collided against rocks causing the stored oil to leak. However, immediately after the accident occurred, port officials of Milford Haven did try their level best to make reparations to the already spilling oil in the water. But disengagement with the tugs led the ship to collide even further against the rocks, leading to further leakage of oil.

In entirety, over 70,000 tonnes of oil was spilt which caused several major problems to the government authorities.

Effects of Oil Spillage

The route undertaken by the vessel bypassed the most important marine nature conservatory located in Milford Haven. The conservatory is well-known for exotic birds like cormorants, guillemots, puffins, seals and fishes not just in Great Britain but also across the world.

Because of the oil spill disaster, many birds lost their lives while fishing activities in the surrounding areas were severely curtailed for many months on end. But while the fishermen were provided with recompensing, the community still endured a huge loss because of lack of productive activity.

Statistics released present a very stark picture post the disaster’s clean-up operations. According to one statistical figure, out of the total number of guillemots released after the slick was cleaned from their body surface, only a meagre one percent survived in the wild for an entire year.

But the most important and positive aspect was that the number of dead birds and other animals was very low on account of the time of the maritime disaster. Migrant birds had still not started to abound which ensured that the loss was curtailed and made manageable.

 Vessel Plight

Post the incident, the Sea Express was utilised for another eight years before being re-modified into a FPSO vessel to be used in the Asia.

However, before being re-modified, extensive reparations were carried out to ensure that the vessel could be utilised productively. After the Sea Express disaster, the vessel was never granted permission to navigate through Milford Haven.

The accident caused to the Sea Express might have been a sudden incident. But the alertness of the authorities and many other people determined to protect the interests of the conservatory and the beings at any costs, makes it an incident worth taking positive lessons from.


[stextbox id=”grey” caption=”Read More About”]Fighting Oil Spill   Ship Oil Pollution Emergency Plan   Major Oil Spills  Oil Spill Crisis Map[/stextbox]



josef-bayer , bbc , ngfl-cymru

Image Credits

icnetwork , swan , bbc

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  1. saurabh says

    sm things r beyond the control of human..and specially marpol convection…
    Was the master or fined according to regulations ?

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