On 6 August 1983, the Spanish oil tanker Castillo de Bellver, transporting 250,000 tonnes of light crude oil, was around 80 km off Table Bay (South Africa) when it exploded and went up in flames.
The ship was drifting off the coast and broke in two, generating a spill of 50 to 60 thousand tonnes of light crude. The stern section of the Castillo de Bellver capsized and sank on 7 August in deep waters 36 km off the coast, with 100,000 tonnes of oil remaining in its tanks. The bow section was then towed away from the coast and was eventually sunk using explosives.
The accident area is an ecologically and economically sensitive area as it harbours rich flora and fauna. It is also home to a large seabird population. Moreover, 50% of South African lobster and fish landings are caught in this zone, which is an important reproduction area for fish.
The weather conditions were conducive to spill response; if this had not been the case the situation could have been disastrous for the environment. Some 230 m3 of diluted dispersant and 4 m3 of dispersant concentrate were sprayed at the edge of the slick, preventing it from coming less than 32 km from the shore.
Prevailing winds pushed the slick offshore, resulting in little coastal pollution. According to tests conducted on samples of sediment, plankton and water, no abnormal presence of hydrocarbons was detected. Furthermore, impacts on fishing and the environment were negligible.
Name: Castillo de Bellver
Location: South Africa
Accident area: 64 km off Table Bay
Cause of spill: explosion
Product transported: light crude oil
Quantity transported: 250,000 tonnes
Type of pollutant: light crude oil
Quantity spilled: 150,000 to 160,000 tonnes
Ship type: oil tanker
Date built: 1978
Length: 334.02 m
Width: 55.05 m
Draught: 3 m
Last update: 16 June 2010