Aegean Sea oil spill
The Aegean Sea oil spill was a spill that occurred on 3 December 1992 when the double-bottom Greek-flagged tanker, Aegean Sea, en route to Repsol refinery in A Coruña, Spain, suffered an accident off the Galician coast. The ship had successfully passed all required tests and revisions. The accident occurred during extreme weather conditions and affected the Galician coast resulting in ecosystem damage, as well as damage to the fishing and tourist industries in La Coruna. The captain and pilot were found to be criminally liable and the shipowner took on much of the monetary liability.
After being anchored for a few days off the coast of La Coruna due to weather hazards, the Aegean Sea was ordered into port by port authorities. Due to this, on 3 December 1992, the oil-ore Greek carrier ship the Aegean Sea, ran aground off the coast of Galicia at nearly 5 AM. The ship was on its route to La Coruna, Spain, from Sullom Voe, Scotland. Allegedly, a heavy storm managed to push the ship off course and cause it to run aground. A rescue team was sent immediately but failed to keep the ship from breaking in half. This caused the cargo of light crude oil to be spilled which affected sea life. A temporary evacuation of the city of La Coruna was implemented in order to protect the citizens from the hazards of the oil smoke. Out of the 79,000 tonnes of crude oil that the ship was carrying, 67,000 tonnes managed to be spilled and the remaining was salvaged. The salvaged oil was retained through the use of booms, skimmers, and pumps. Since half of the ship was still above water, the rescue team used pumps to drain the still intact tanks. Soon after, the ship caught on fire and continued to burn for a period of five days. The remaining oil drifted with the strong currents produced by the wind, and as much as 300 km of coast line were affected by the spill. As for the thirty-two-man crew, a rescue helicopter managed to save all of them.
As the vessel prepared to enter the docks of A Coruña, the wind speed was above 50 kn (93 km/h; 58 mph), and visibility was under 100 m (110 yd), causing her to lose her assigned course. Aegean Sea broke up and exploded with 50 m (160 ft) flames near the Tower of Hercules, spilling more than 70,000 tons of oil into the ocean.
To cleanup this disaster, clean-up crews were immediately put forward. Some were in charge of on-shore clean up, and the others were in charge of off-shore clean up. As an off-shore median, oil booms were placed around the spill in order to contain the oil. The booms managed to collect around 5,000 cubic meters of oil, with a mixture of water. As for on-shore, 1,200 cubic meters of contaminated sand and debris was treated for oil. Since only the bow of the Aegean Sea had sunk, pumps were placed in the stern and they pumped out the remaining of the oil.
Aftermath and investigation
The Aegean Sea oil spill affected countless amounts of sea life. La Coruna fishing industry received the hardest blow with the ban of all fishing from the Fisheries council. A claim for fishers' assistance that totaled about nearly 3.53 million dollars was implemented soon after the oil spill. Although the Fisheries Council aided the fishers with some sort of reimbursement, it was no were near what they actually needed. A flood of claims from fishermen and the tourist industry came to the Spanish Court totaling around 287 million dollars by 2001. Most of these claims were settled but some claims remained litigious. The International Oil Pollution Compensation (IOPC), Spanish government, and the ship owner and his club finally came to a settlement and the last payment was paid in December 2003, after a period of ten years. In addition to the monetary settlements, the captain, Constantine Stavrides, and the pilot were also found criminally liable for negligence and for failing to follow regulations.
Hydrocarbons, being an extremely great source of energy due to their strong chemical bonds, were a great source of study in the Aegean Sea oil spill. Chemical markers were placed in a sample of the crude oil spilled, and an interesting data was revealed. Alkanes and acyclic hydrocarbons, both having single bonds, appeared to have deteriorated in only six months, while triterpane and steranane were still present after years of weathering. Both triterpane and steranane have multiple bonds, which is the reason they were still present after so many years. As a conclusion for the study, they stated that chemical markers are a great source to use against oil spills. Apparently, they allow a scientist to determine how long the oil has contaminated the sea water, and how the sea water affected the oil collected with water. For instance, thousands of cubic meters of oil were collected through oil booms. Meaning, the oil is mixed with water and that a cleansing process must take place in order to use the oil once again. Chemical markers may now be placed into to the oil to determine how much the oil must be cleaned in order for it to be satisfactory.
The ship may now be found of the coast of La Coruna, Spain, although the stern is the only part of the ship that is visible. Luckily, two anchors from the Aegean Sea were recovered and are now in display at an aquarium in La Coruna named Aquarium Finisterrae. The aquarium is popular for a displaying marine life found in the coast of La Coruna, and also for their display of shipwreck items. Only the two anchors from the Aegean Ship are on display though.
The Galician Coast was an extremely vital source of income for Spain and the fisherman. Popular catch was crab, lobster,salmon farming, and their main profit came from their production of shellfish. Soon after the oil spill, Spain ordered a study of the ecosystem in order to evaluate the damage done to the benthic fauna in the region, and muddy sediments. This study was enforced due to the fact that an earlier oil spill had occurred in the same area; on May 12, 1976, a super tanker called Urquiola scraped the bottom of the channel entrance in La Coruna, causing the ship to spill its cargo of 107,000 tons of oil. This in turn, affected sea life as well as subtidal sediments but luckily the surviving sea life developed a defense mechanism in which allowed them to survive such a crisis. The sea life in La Coruna seemed normal but a second spilled occurred on December 3, 1993, this being the Aegean Sea, in which effected sea life once again. To determine the damage done to the sea life, a study was designed by determining the species richness, abundance, and biomass. Scientist analyzed the change from December 1992 to November 1996, and realized that the macrobenthic communities living in the coast of the affected areas displayed a similar trend as the original organisms in Urquiola's oil spill. Amphipods seemed to be affected the hardest by the oil spill, and experienced a high mortality rate up to the spring of 1995; also, a low abundance rate was experienced throughout this time Soon after, the species seemed to recover until the end of 1996. towards the end of the study, a trend was discovered in which resistant species dominated the ecosystem. Unfortunately, a third oil spill occurred around the same area in La Coruna in which a tanker, the Prestige, carrying 77,000 tons of oil crack into two and spilled its cargo. 10,000 tons of oil was spilled but the sunken hull of the Prestige is still leaking oil from its tanks to this day.
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