11 APRIL 1991: MT HAVEN EXPLODES NEAR GENOA
The MT Haven formely Amoco Milford Haven, was a very large crude carrier (VLCC), built in Cadiz, Spain; the sister ship of the Amoco Cadiz, which sank in 1978. Launched in 1973, she worked various routes shipping crude oil from the middle east gulf. In 1987 she was hit by a missile in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq War. Extensively refitted in Singapore she was sold to ship brokers who leased her to Troodos Shipping, for whom she ran from Iran’s Kharg Island to the Mediterranean. On 11 April 1991, the tanker was unloading its 230,000 tons of crude oil to the Multedo floating platform seven miles from Genoa, Italy.
The crew disconnected from the platform and began a routine process of moving oil from outer tanks into the central hold. As the pump in the central hold engaged, there was a sharp noise before the hold exploded. Instantly, five crewmen were killed as fire erupted out of the hold soon engulfing the fore section tanker.
Winds pushed the flames from towards the stern. A half an hour later, the Haven had a second explosion causing the bow to slump and the anchor chain to snap. Flames rose 100m high and between 30-40,000 tons of oil poured into the sea. Several attempts to tow the tanker to the shore failed.
A tug attached a line and headed towards Arenzano. As the Haven was got closer to shore, a 95 meter long section of the vessel broke off and sank in 480 meters of water.
On April 14, the remaining stern section sank in 80 meters of water. When this section sank, the fire was finally extinguished after burning for more than 70 hours. Some 143,000 barrels of oil was released into the water while some 450,000 barrels were consumed by the fire. Some 25 miles of Italian and French coastline were covered in 1 to 2 inch thick sheen of heavy crude.
For the next 12 years the Mediterranean coast off Italy and France was polluted, especially around Genoa and southern France.
The sinking of the Haven remains the worst oil-pollution incident ever to occur in the Mediterranean Sea. (Sources, Shipwreck Log/ITOPF/Wikipedia)
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