On 22 October 1974, the Liberian tanker the Universe Leader was unloading her cargo at Bantry Bay oil terminal. Nobody noticed that a gate, situated 9 metres underwater, was open. It not until two hours later that someone became aware of the situation. During that time, 2,600 tonnes of Kuwait crude were spilled at sea.
Response operations involved 200 people. 140 tonnes of dispersants were sprayed on the oil. The port of Gerahie was protected by floating booms. 130 tonnes of oil was contained by the booms and then pumped to the shore. A skimmer was also used by the response team. On the shoreline, sorbents (straw, sawdust, heath-peat) were widely used. However it was only possible to recover the straw.
The oil polluted over 30 km of coastline. In these areas, the vegetation and the lichen were seriously damaged. There was fear for the fauna living there, however biological damage, particularly to fish, was relatively low.
Following the incident, the Irish government took measures to limit the number of tankers allowed in the harbour at the same time to five.
Name: Universe Leader
Date: 22 October 1974
Accident area: Bantry Bay
Cause of spill: human error
Quantity transported: 85,000 tonnes
Type of pollutant: Kuwait crude oil
Quantity spilled: 2,600 tonnes
Ship type: oil tanker
Date built: 1956
Last update: June 2011