On 14 February 2009, the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) satellite surveillance programme CleanSeaNet detected an oil slick 80 km south-west of Cork (Ireland). The slick covered a surface area of 22.5 m². Ireland’s Marine Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) then the Irish Coast Guard were alerted to the situation. Suspicions over the origin of the spill pointed towards a refuelling operation on the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov.
The Irish and Russian Governments disagreed over the extent of the spill. The Russian navy estimated a spill of 20 to 30 tonnes while the Irish Coast Guard reckoned on 300 to 500 tonnes. It was reported to be the largest oil spill around the British Isles since the Sea Empress in 1996.
The Irish Government was quick to call upon EMSA for assistance in spill response. The recovery vessel Galway Fisher was mobilised on 17 February but as it soon became clear that there was no threat to the Irish coastline, it was demobilised two days later.
Two weeks later, Russia officially recognised that the oil spill off the Irish coast was indeed due to a refuelling operation on one of its war ships, the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. The Russian-led internal inquiry suggested that this incident was caused by technical failure together with human error.
The pollution was monitored jointly by Ireland and Great Britain, using an aircraft and several vessels. Surveillance via satellite imagery was set up and slick drift predictions were conducted. No coastal pollution was reported.
The total cost of pollution monitoring operations was 318,000 US Dollars, for which Russia picked up the bill.
Name: Admiral Kuznetsov
Location: Celtic Sea
Accident area: 80 km south-west of Cork, Ireland
Cause of spill: refuelling operation
Type of pollutant: bunker fuel
Quantity spilled: 300 to 500 tonnes of oil
Ship type: aircraft carrier
Date built: 1983
Shipyard: Nikolayev, Ukraine
Length: 306.5 m
Width: 72.3 m
Draught: 9.1 m
Last update: 16 June 2010