Major British Oil Spills at Sea

Information about the largest of the British Oil Tanker disasters in British and nearby seas recorded by the British Marine Life Study Society.

Major Tanker disasters: Torrey Canyon (1967), Amoco Cadiz (1978), Braer (1993), Sea Empress (1996), Erika (1999).

Smaller spills: Universe Leader (1974), Olympic Alliance (1975), Pacific Colocotronia (1975), Eleni V (1978), Esso Bernicia (1978), Christos Bitas (1978), Tanio (1980), Sivand (1983), Orleans (1986).
British Oil Tanker Disasters
Brent Spar
Braer: A Full Report is on  Kevin Osborne's SHETLAND ISLES WILDLIFE SITE. Please request link if not discovered. Shetland News Web Site.

Sea Empress

The Sea Empress oil tanker disaster in south-west Wales during February 1996, when 71,800 tonnes of crude oil plus 480 tonnes of heavy fuel oil were spilled into the rich marine wildlife area of the Bristol Channel and Milford Haven, was explored in detail as a major feature in the Vernal/Summer 1996 issue of the BMLSS journal Glaucus.

A study of the harmful effects of oil spills was undertaken after the Braer disaster in the Vernal 1993 issue of Glaucus.

Effects of Oil Pollution on the Shore

Independent research by Andy Horton of the British Marine Life Study Society drew conclusions about the effects of oil pollution on the shore and in shallow seas. The results were arrived at in a series of articles in Glaucus, mostly since the Braer Disaster in 1993. These conclusions differ from the Friends of the Earth Reports. However, they do concur almost exactly with Mike Camplin's Report for the Devon Wildlife Trust published in 1993, but concluded years before this. As Mike Camplin's Summary is concise and clear it is repeated below:


Esso Bernicia (Shetland Isles, 1978): This damaging oil spill of only 1200 tonnes of the more harmful fuel oil occured after a collision with the ship against the mooring jetty. 700 tonnes of heavy oil spilled into Sullom Voe, with strong currents rapidly dispersing the oil around the other islands, causing a heavy mortality of rare breeding birds like Great Northern Divers. Even 20 years later the breeding populations of sea birds in Sullom Voe have not recovered. This spill resulted in the establishment of a specialised work force dedicated to clearing up and containing any future spillages.

Braer Synopsis


The measurement of quantities used is one tonne of crude oil that is roughly equal to 308 US gallons, or 7.33 barrels. Or 256 UK gallons, or 7.12 barrels.

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Erika Floating Junk


Oil Spill Response  Tel: 07771 862571

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