MAY 1976 – SUPER TANKER URQUIOLA EXPLODES IN LA CORUNA

August 19, 2018

On May 12, 1976, three years after it was christened, the super tanker Urquiola carrying 110,000 tons of Arabian crude oil struck a submerged object while passing through Sijo Blanco Channel while approaching an oil refinery port in La Coruna, Spain. The vessel began to leak cargo from the damaged bow section. Due to the threat of explosion and fire, the Port Commandant ordered the Urquiola out of the harbor, away from the refinery and town of 200,000 inhabitants. While being assisted out of the harbor by two tugs, the leaking vessel grounded again, further rupturing the bow tanks. All of the crew, except for the captain and pilot, abandoned the ship when it began to list. On a rising tide, tidal currents pushed the ship firmly onto Yacentes bank. Shortly after the Urquiola exploded and began to burn killing the captain Rodriguez, the only person onboard at that time. Black smoke spread out over the city of La Coruña, while oil spread rapidly throughout the port and towards the surrounding coastline, becoming one of the greatest oil spill disasters in history.
An estimated 180,000-220,000 barrels of the cargo polluted the Spanish coast. Cleanup of the oiled shoreline was primarily accomplished by manual labor. Skimmers and booms were used for water recovery with mixed results.
(Image: The Urquiola wreck)