15 NOVEMBER 1979 - INDEPENDENTA EXPLODES IN BOSPOHORUS

MT Independenta was a 1978-built Romanian-flagged crude oil carrier. 283 m long she was the biggest ship of her country’s commercial fleet at that time. By mid November 1979, the Independenta, carrying 94,000 tons of Libyan crude oil to Constanta, Romania, dropped anchor at about 4 nautical miles off the southern entrance of the Istanbul Strait. Early in the morning of 15 November at 04:35 the Greek cargo ship M/V Evriali transporting 7,400 tons steel from Ukraine to Italy collided with Independenta hitting the Romanian ship on the starboard side. The collision caused a massive explosion. The windows of homes up to six kilometres inland were smashed and the two vessels went on fire. 43 crew members of the tanker died, only three survived the crash. If the fire onboard the Evrialy was brought under control the same day, the Independenta burning for a week, caused severe air and sea pollution near Istanbul and the Marmara Sea. It was estimated that 30,000 tons of crude oil burned and that the remaining 64,000 tons spilled into the sea. Because of the rapid evaporation of the light components, the crude oil quickly sank to the bottom of the sea in an area approximately 5.5 km in diameter. Accused of not respecting international navigational rules and pilot instructions, the captain and seven members of the Evrialy’s crew were arrested.