SS Atlantic Empress
|Name:||SS Atlantic Empress|
|Owner:||South Gulf Shipping Co. Ltd., Greece|
|Builder:||Odense Staalskibsværft, Odense, Denmark|
|Launched:||16 February 1974|
|Identification:||IMO number: 7359975|
|Fate:||Sank, 3 August 1979|
|General characteristics |
|Beam:||51.8 m (169 ft 11 in)|
|Draught:||22.1 m (72 ft 6 in)|
|Depth:||28.4 m (93 ft 2 in)|
|Propulsion:||Steam turbines, 23,866 kW (32,005 hp), 1 screw|
|Speed:||16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph)|
SS Atlantic Empress was a Greek oil tanker that in 1979 collided with the oil tanker Aegean Captain in the Caribbean, and eventually sank, having created the fifth largest oil spill on record and the largest ship-based spill.
The Atlantic Empress was a large crude oil carrier built at the Odense Staalskibsværft shipyard in Odense, Denmark, and launched on 16 February 1974. At the time of her sinking, she was owned by the South Gulf Shipping Company of Greece, and flagged in Liberia.
Collision and sinking
On 19 July 1979 Atlantic Empress collided with the Aegean Captain, another fully laden Greek supertanker, 18 miles east of the island of Tobago. At the time of the collision Atlantic Empress was sailing from Saudi Arabia to Beaumont, Texas, with a cargo of light crude oil owned by Mobil Oil. Aegean Captain was en route to Singapore from Aruba.
In heavy rain and thick fog the two ships did not sight each other until they were 600 yards (550 m) apart. Aegean Captain changed course, but it was too late; at 7:15 p.m, the two ships collided, with the Empress tearing a hole in the Captain's starboard bow. Large fires began on each ship, which were soon beyond the control of the crews, who abandoned their ships.
The collision and fire claimed the lives of 26 of the Empress's crew members, and one crew member on the Captain. The remaining crew from both ships were taken to Tobago for medical treatment, while the Empress's captain was transported to a hospital in Texas, having inhaled fire.
Firefighters from the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard brought the fires aboard the Captain under control the next day, and members of her crew returned to the ship, and were able to bring her into Curaçao, where her cargo was off-loaded. Meanwhile, a five-man specialist emergency crew from the Dutch Salvage organization Smit International  and the German Bugsier, managed by a Salvage inspector of Smit International, attempted to control the fire aboard Empress, and contain the spreading oil slick. Two tugs (one of them being the Smit Zwarte Zee) towed the burning ship further out to sea.
On 24 July, a week after the collision, the Empress was still burning, and also listing, when an explosion occurred that increased the rate of flow. The next day another larger explosion increased the rate to 7,000-15,000 gallons an hour, twice the previous rate. Finally, on 3 August, the Empress sank, having spilled 287,000 metric tonnes of crude oil into the Caribbean Sea.
- Visser, Auke (2012). "Atlantic Empress". International Super Tankers. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
- Soter, Tom (October 1979). "Supertankers Collide in Caribbean". Firehouse. Cygnus Business Media. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
- Gillis, Carly (17 September 2011). "Atlantic Empress And Aegean Captain Oil Spill: A Brief History". CounterSpill. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
- Jan Sonneveld, one of the five salvage team
- "Major Tanker Oil Spills". International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation. 2012. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
- Visser, Auke. "Images of Atlantic Empress & Aegean Captain collision". International Super Tankers.
- "How big is the Deepwater Horizon oil spill?". BBC News. 7 May 2010.
- "Jan Sonneveld". 5 February 2014.