Odyssey (tanker)

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  • Odyssey
  • Oriental Phoenix
OwnerPolembros Shipping Ltd.
Port of registryMonrovia, Liberia
In service1971
Out of serviceNovember 10, 1988
IdentificationIMO number7122766
General characteristics
Class and typeOil tanker

Odyssey, which previously went by the name Oriental Phoenix, was an oil tanker in operation from 1971 to November 10, 1988, when an explosion caused it to sink in the North Atlantic off the coast of Canada.[1] The resulting spill remains one of the largest oil spills in world history. The tanker was 700 nautical miles (1,300 km; 810 mi) off the coast of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia when it sank and released 132,157 tons (43 million gallons) of oil into the ocean.[2][3] By way of comparison, 4.3 times as much oil was spilled by the Odyssey as from the much more famous Exxon Valdez.


Odyssey, built in 1971, was a 65,000-ton tanker operated by Polembros Shipping Ltd. of London, England, and registered in Liberia. On November 5, 1988, the tanker departed Sullom Voe Terminal in the Shetland Islands off Scotland, fully loaded with North Sea Brent Crude oil which was being transported to the Come By Chance Refinery at Come-by-Chance, Newfoundland and Labrador.

When the ship was about 1000 nautical miles off the coast of Newfoundland, a major North Atlantic storm arose, buffeting the ship with 25-foot (7.6 m) waves and 44-mile-per-hour winds.[4] In response, the ship sent out a distress signal and kept heading for shore. The distress call was received by Radio Valentia in Ireland and transferred to the Canadian Rescue Coordination Centre.[5] The centre alerted the vessels in the area.

However, when the ship was 700 nautical miles (1,300 km) off the coast of Nova Scotia, an explosion occurred on board, causing the ship to break into two and begin sinking. As the ship sank, a fire broke out on its stern section, causing the oil on board to catch fire.[6] A Russian weather ship, Passat, responded to the Odyssey's distress call and was on site in less than an hour. Once on site however, it was unable to approach the vessel as it was surrounded by ignited oil slicks.

All 27 crew members, 15 Greeks and 12 Hondurans, are presumed to have died during the incident. Because of hazardous weather conditions, the Canadian Coast Guard could not immediately reach the spill and much of the oil burned up before the coast guard reached the ship.[7]

Environmental effects[edit]

In the immediate aftermath of the ship's sinking, the oil spill covered an area of 3 miles (4.8 km) x 10 miles (16 km).[1] A much reduced amount of oil reached shore - in part because of the oil's rapid combustion from the initial explosion and in part because currents carried the spill across the Atlantic, in the direction of England, giving the oil a significant amount of time to dissipate in the rough seas.[8] Because of this, no clean-up operation was mounted.[9]

The Advisory Committee on Marine Pollution of the Sea of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea published an analysis of the spill in their 1990 Marine Pollution Yearbook which noted that the spill likely had a significant effect on krill in the area, and through them, may have affected animals further up the food chain.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Tanker Splits in 2 in Atlantic Storm". New York Times. Reuters. 11 November 1988. Retrieved 14 June 2010.
  2. ^ Infoplease (2009). "Oil Spills and Disasters". Pearson Education. Retrieved 14 June 2010.
  3. ^ Information Services (7 May 2010). "Data & Statistics: Accidental Marine oil Spillages Since 1970". International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF). Retrieved 18 May 2010.
  4. ^ Edith M. Lederer (11 November 1988). "27 Missing Off Foundering Oil Tanker". Associated Press. Retrieved 14 June 2010.
  5. ^ "Odyssey - Cedre". wwz.cedre.fr. Retrieved 2015-07-26.
  6. ^ Hooke, N. (1997) Maritime casualties, 1963-1996. 2nd edition, LLP Limited, London
  7. ^ Remy Melina (29 April 2010). "The 10 Worst Oil Spills in History". NBC News. Retrieved 14 June 2010.
  8. ^ Steve (2010). "Sick Slicks: Counting Down The 13 Worst Oil Spills". Webecoist. Retrieved 14 June 2010.
  9. ^ Anne Casselman (2010), "10 Biggest Oil Spills in History", Popular Mechanics, retrieved 14 June 2010
  10. ^ International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (1990). Marine Pollution: Yearbook 1990. Pergamon. ISBN 9780080408095. Retrieved 14 June 2010.