Worst Oil Spills: The ABT Summer Oil Spill Incident

Oil spill incidents only vary in their magnitude and the extent of loss to maritime life-forms they leave behind. The ABT Summer oil spill is no different. However in case of the ABT Summer tanker ship, there has been a comparatively lesser degree of damage associated concerning the maritime flora and fauna. This factor perhaps becomes the discounting aspect in what could otherwise have been one of the worst oil spill accidents recounted in maritime history.

The ABT Summer was a Liberian registered oil cargo vessel, launched in the year 1974. Built in the South Korean shipbuilding yard of Ulsan, the vessel had a length of over 344 metres and a breadth of almost 82 metres.

Oil Spill

At the time of her accident near the Angolan waters, while on route from an Iranian harbour to the Rotterdam harbour, the vessel had serviced the maritime oil cargo industry for almost 18-years.

ABT Tanker Ship Oil Spill Details

The ABT tanker ship oil spill occurred in the most unusual of manners. An unexplained detonation rocked the ship, causing it to go up in flames during the forenoon of 28th May 1991 around 1,300 kilometres from the Angolan seacoast. Though ships to speed the process of rescuing the 32 crew members were deployed by noontime, the exigency situation within the tanker was substantially enhanced. Of the crew personnel, at the time of rescuing operations, one person was declared dead, four personnel were declared to be missing who were later pronounced dead.

ABT Summer Oil Spill

The flames enveloping the tanker ship raged uncontrollably for about three days before sinking to the water’s depths during which time, over 2, 50,000 tonnes of the laded oil cargo started to spill and spread onto the water surface. In entirety, the oil film coating the water surface spanned a distance of almost 80 miles circumferentially to the vessel’s location at the time of the accident.

Repercussions to the Ecosystem

Unlike various other oil spill incidents, the ABT Summer oil spill left a relatively milder impact on the maritime ecosystem. Considering that the accident occurred in the actual high seas, the proximity to the nearest coastal province was limited which prevented in the unwanted spreading of the oil film to the coastal villages and townships. Even in terms of the coating of the oil film in the water zone, it was expected that the oil would naturally vaporise without leaving a substantial dent to the naturally occurring marine ecology.

The ABT Summer Oil Spill

However in spite of the natural manner of damage limitation, the ABT Summer accident was yet another bleak reminder of the nonchalant manner of maritime operations. Its categorisation as one of the worst oil spill disasters perhaps stems from this fact, even though the actual damages might have been naturally curtailed. In the 15-years following the accident, though several proactive measures have been stepped up to ensure that such oil spill incidents don’t occur, more steps need to be followed with.


livescience, epicdisasters, cedre

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totallytop10, toptenz, idaocao

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  1. As a post graduate environmental maritime student one suspect sabotage in this unfortunate incident.

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