|This article needs additional citations for verification. (July 2010)|
|Port of registry:||Romania|
|Builder:||Santierul Naval Constanța, Romania|
|Fate:||Wrecked in 1979 and subsequently broken up|
|Type:||Crude oil tanker|
|Length:||298 m (977 ft 8 in) o/a|
|Beam:||46 m (150 ft 11 in)|
|Draft:||17.4 m (57 ft 1 in)|
|Depth:||22.5 m (73 ft 10 in) moulded|
|Capacity:||160,698 m³ (at 98%)|
MT Independența (Independence) was a 1977 Romanian-flagged crude oil carrier, the biggest ship of the Romanian commercial fleet at that time. She collided in 1979 with a Greek freighter at the southern entrance of Bosphorus, Turkey and exploded. She caught fire and grounded. Almost all of the tanker's crew members died. The wreck of the Independența burned for weeks causing heavy air and sea pollution in the Istanbul area and the Sea of Marmara.
Early in the morning of 15 November 1979, the Independența, carrying 94,000 tons (714,760 barrels) of crude oil from Es Sider, Libya, collided with the Greek cargo ship M/V Evriali (10,000 DWT) at the southern entrance of the Istanbul Strait. The collision was followed by a big explosion at 05:20 a.m. and both vessels began to burn. The Independența ran aground half a mile off the Port of Haydarpaşa. 43 members of the tanker's crew lost their lives; only 3 survived the catastrophic accident. Almost all the victims lost their lives in the water when burning oil on the surface was driven towards the shore by the wind; the sailors who survived had jumped on the other side of the ship, against the wind, being later rescued by boats.
The Turkish Navy immediately attempted to extinguish the fire. However, these efforts had to be abandoned due to the intensity of the fire. The Director of the Sea of Marmara District took over the spill on 19 November, and the Navy withdrew.
The Istanbul Strait remained closed for weeks. The wreck affected the area for some years until it was broken up and salvaged to a shipyard in Tuzla.
The exact cause of accident is not clear, even today. Some say[who?] that there is a secret report from Romanian Foreign Intelligence Services at that time that states the accident was not at all a mere accident, but an act of sabotage in order to stop the then communist Romania's rising as a major player on the petroleum/tankers market. Of course such a theory is considered by many to be, more or less, a myth.
The Romanian shipping company "Navrom" claimed the insurance payout, amounting to some tens of millions of US dollars. This action resulted in a thorough inspection of the ship's wreck by independent survey teams employed by the insurance company from Lloyd's Register of Shipping, Japan. As the inspection did not reveal any major faults in construction, the insurance was finally paid.
From 17 to 27 November, there was slight leakage from the tanker. Another major explosion occurred on board the vessel on the night of 6 December at 10:40 p.m., which resulted in more oil spillage. The slick from the vessel drifted towards the Port of Haydarpaşa, and the booms across its entrance could not prevent approximately 50 tons of oil entering the harbor. The tanker continued to burn until 14 December.
The maximum accumulation of harmful particles in the air during the fire exceeded by four times the permissible limit set for human health. Heavy oil contamination formed on the surface of the sea and on the heavily built-up shores and the recreational beaches of the Sea of Marmara and the Istanbul Strait.
It was estimated that 30,000 tons of crude oil burned and that the remaining 64,000 tons spilled into the sea. Because of the rapid evaporation of the light components, the crude oil quickly sank to the bottom of the sea in an area approximately 5.5 km in diameter.
M/T Independența was the first of a series of five Romanian supertankers which were constructed by Santierul Naval Constanța in the 1980s. The sister ships were as follows:
M/T Unirea (Union) - broke up and sank at the beginning of the 1980s in Bulgarian waters of the Black Sea. Official reports claim that the accident was caused by a collision with a World War II mine. A different opinion (unofficial) came from some naval architects and marine engineers stating that the ship broke up due to incorrect ballasting (the ship had no cargo at the moment of the accident).
M/T Biruința (Victory) - owned and managed by the then Romanian state owned Shipping Company (Navrom). In the 1990s the ship was passed to the Romanian private shipping company "Petromin", changing its name to M/T Iris Star. Finally the ship was bought by the Romanian shipping company Histria Shipmanagement having its name changed again to M/T Histria Crown. The ship was finally decommissioned after more than 20 years of service in 2006.
M/T Libertatea (Liberty) - had the same history (including ownership) as her older sister M/T Biruinta. The ship, known then as M/T Histria Prestige, was broken up in 2005.
M/T Pacea (Peace) - was never fully completed. At the end of the 1980s it was passed to Czechoslovakia as a part of Romania's foreign debt.
Sister ship’s incident
The sister ship of Independența, the M/T Iris Star lost power due to engine failure during her passage through the Bosphorus on 27 July 2000, and drifted towards Kandilli point. There was no extensive damage reported.