On 6 January 1991, the cargo tanker Kimya was sailing in a heavy storm in the Irish Sea when she stranded off the south of the Isle of Anglesey (Wales). The incident caused the death of 10 crew members. Only two of the crew survived and were air-lifted by helicopter. A leak was observed in the vessel. However as she was loaded with sunflower oil, nobody thought of the possibility of pollution.
The hull of the Kimya was upturned and she drifted ashore. In February, the vessel was refloated. The wreck was eventually anchored to the seabed.
The Kimya lost her 1,500 tonnes cargo of sunflower oil over a period of 6 to 9 months. In autumn 1991, people started noticing strange things, looking like “chewing gum balls” on the beaches and high mussel mortality was reported. Scientific tests were carried out, revealing that molecules of sunflower oil had polymerised with wave action. Once on the beaches, the oil and sand formed an impermeable aggregate, under which shoreline species were prisoners. This seriously affected biodiversity. Mussels died by suffocation within 2 weeks after being in contact with the sunflower oil. Laboratory testing showed that their internal shell lost its nacre lining and that their external shell became chalky with the oil.
Almost 6 years later, concrete-like aggregates of sand remained on
Date: 6 January 1991
Location: Irish Sea
Accident area: off Welsh coast
Cause of spill: stranding
Quantity transported: 1,500 tonnes
Type of pollutant: sunflower oil
Quantity spilled: 1,500 tonnes
Ship type: tanker
Date built: 1968
Shipyard: Ernst Menzer-Werf, Geesthacht
Length: 73.31 m
Width: 11.23 m
Draught: 4.54 m
Owner: Fathom shipping Ltd
MCA (Maritime and Coastguard Agency)
Summary of vessel-casualty oil spill incidents 1989-1998 (PDF).
Last update: June 2011