JANUARY 1993: MV BRAER BROKE UP NEAR SUMBURGH HEAD

November 30, 2019

MV Braer was a 87,730 dwt oil tanker built by Oshima Shipbuilding in Nagasaki, Japan, in 1975, and operated by Canadian Ultramar. The tanker departed Mongstad in Norway on January 3 1993, laden with 85,000 tonnes of Norwegian Gullfaks crude oil bound for Quebec, Canada. The planned route would pass through the North Fair Isle Strait between the Orkney Islands and the Shetland Islands. All began as a routine voyage before the crew encounter unexpected problems. A pipeline on the deck broke loose, allowing seawater to enter the vessel’s bunker system via broken air vents, this contaminating the ship’s heavy fuel tanks. At 05.19 hrs on Tuesday 5 January 1993, Lerwick coastguard were advised that the tanker Braer had lost engine power but was in no immediate danger. Her estimated position then was 10 miles (19 km) south of Sumburgh Head and she was drifting in predominantly southwesterly winds of force10–11. The coastguard alerted rescue helicopters from Sumburgh and RAF Lossiemouth. 14 of the 34 crew were taken off by the coastguard helicopter from Sumburgh at 08:25. The anchor handling vessel Star Sirius arrived on the scene and attempted to establish a tow but efforts were unsuccessful. At 11:19 the vessel was confirmed as being grounded at Garths Ness in Quendale bay, south Shetland, with oil being seen to flow out into the sea from the moment of impact. The remaining crew onboard was safely evacuated by helicopter. Developing as a weak frontal wave on 8 January 1993, the most intense extratropical cyclone ever recorded over the northern Atlantic Ocean hit the Shetlands Island. On 10 January wind gusts of over 190 km/h (120 mph) were measured across northwest Scotland. Wind and waves associated with the storm caused the MV Braer to break up. The remaining cargo of 85,000 tons spilled into the sea. The Gulfaks crude Braer was carrying was not a typical North Sea oil. Gulfaks crude is lighter and more easily biodegradable than other North Sea crude oils, and this, in combination with the worst storm seen in Shetland (naturally dispersing the oil by wave action and evaporation), prevented the event from having greater impacts on the shore. Reports state only 1% of the oil washed up on the beaches but there was still a large environmental impact affecting the marine life. Some $95 million were paid out in claims by those impacted by the spill.
(Source: Revolvy, Wikipedia – Image: gov.uk)