the night of 4 January 1993, while sailing in a heavy storm on the
shortest but most dangerous route from Norway to Canada, the Liberian
oil tanker the Braer suffered engine failure due to the entrance
of sea water in her bunkers. Rapid evacuation of the crew on the
morning of 5 January and the lack of a high sea tug in the area
meant that the ship could not be towed. She ran aground west of
Sumburgh Head, on the southern tip of the Shetlands at 11:19 am.
The damage to the tanker led to the release of her cargo of crude
Heavy response equipment and specialised personnel were quickly sent to the site of the accident, and the response team had to compete with media crews for the little housing available on the island. Adverse weather conditions rendered response operations at sea impossible and limited the onshore operations. The remaining oil therefore leaked from the vessel and was naturally by wave action.
A large zone had to be set up around the vessel, where a total fishing ban was imposed. Salmon farms further north were affected and stocks of market size fish, unsuitable for consumption, had to be destroyed. Sheep bred outside were also affected and houses had their roofs spattered with hydrocarbon particles.
More than 2,000 victims claimed compensation from the ship owner, his protection and indemnity club and the International Oil Compensation Fund. The majority of the claims were settled amicably within the three year time limit of the fund for such settlements. The remaining claimants embarked upon legal proceedings, which were mostly settled out of court within the three following years. In October 2001 the last negotiations came to an end. Total payment for this incident amounted to £58.4 million, out of which £52.2 million was paid by the IOPC Fund.
incident generated considerable concern about shipping safety in
the United Kingdom, leading to a national inquiry, known as (Lord
Donaldson's Inquiry). The report submitted, entitled "Safer
ships, cleaner seas", proposed several major changes in the
national pollution prevention and response organisations.
Date: 5 January 1993
Accident area: Southern tip of the Shetlands
Cause of spill: grounding
Quantity transported: 84,500 tonnes
Type of pollutant: crude oil
Quantity spilled: 84,500 tonnes
Ship type: oil tanker
Date built: 1975
Length: 241.51 m
Width: 40.06 m
Owner: BRAER Corp.
Last update: April 2006