Major Oil Spills Since 1967

Ship NameYearLocationSpill Size (Tons)
Atlantic Empress1979Off Tobago, West Indies287,000
ABT Summer1991700 nautical miles off Angola260,000
Castillo de Bellver1983Off Saldanha Bay, South Africa252,000
Amoco Cadiz1978Off Brittany, France223,000
Haven1991Genoa, Italy144,000
Odyssey1988700 nautical miles off Nova Scotia, Canada132,000
Torrey Canyon1967Scilly Isles, UK119,000
Sea Star1972Gulf of Oman115,000
Irenes Serenade1980Navarino Bay, Greece100,000
Urquiola1976La Coruna, Spain100,000
Hawaiian Patriot1977300 nautical miles off Honolulu95,000
Independenta1979Bosphorus, Turkey95,000
Jakob Maersk1975Oporto, Portugal88,000
Braer1993Shetland Islands, UK85,000
Khark 51989120 nautical miles off Atlantic coast of Morocco80,000
Aegean Sea1992La Coruna, Spain74,000
Sea Empress1996Milford Haven, UK72,000
Katina P1992Off Maputo, Mozambique72,000
Nova1985Off Kharg Island, Gulf of Iran70,000
Prestige2002Off Galicia, Spain63,000
Exxon Valdez1989Prince William Sound, Alaska, USA37,000

Source: The International Tankers Owners Pollution Federation.

The size of an oil spill is an indication of its potential environmental impact. Yet, the two most damaging oil spills were not the largest but took place nearby ecologically rich areas, particularly in terms of fishing. The Amoco Cadiz was carrying 223,000 tons of oil when it sank in Portsall Bay, France, on March 17, 1978. Some 400 km of Breton coastlines were affected. Following the incident, not only was the ecological equilibrium greatly disturbed but the local economy based on fishing was also completely paralyzed. On March 24, 1989, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez hit a reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska, thereby spilling 37,000 tons out of oil of its 180,000 tons load, a spill that affected 1,700 km of coastlines. Even if comparatively to other major spills it was of lower volume, it still carries today the title of the largest animal death toll. The Prestige and Sea Empress oil spills that occurred off the European Atlantic generated a significant amount of pollution that destroyed aquatic species including algae, mollusks, crustacean, marine mammals, fish and invertebrates.