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Kerch Strait

Name
Kerch Strait
Accident date
11/11/2007
Location
Black Sea
Accident area
Kerch Strait
Spill area
Offshore
Cause of spill
Weather conditions
Nature of pollutant
Heavy fuel oil, light fuel oil, marine diesel, oil lubricants and sulphur
Quantity spilled
1,300 tonnes of heavy fuel oil, 5.5 tonnes of light fuel oil, 25 tonnes of marine diesel, 2.3 tonnes of lubricants

On 10 and 11 November 2007 a severe storm hit the Kerch Strait, located between Ukraine in the west and Russia in the east and linking the Sea of Azov (in the north) to the Black Sea (in the south). Winds of over 110 km/h caused high waves over 5 metres high in shallow waters, where the depth varies from 7 to 12 metres.

Many vessels ignored the Ukranian severe weather warning and found themselves in very rare sea and weather conditions for this region.

These conditions caused serious damage to around ten vessels, most of which were anchored. At least 4 sailors are known to have died and 19 others were reported missing.

 

Location of the Kerch Strait
Location of the Kerch Strait

 

On 11 November 2007, four vessels sank in the Kerch Strait:

  • The Russian tanker Volgoneft-139 broke in two whilst carrying 3,500 tonnes of IFO 180. A spill of about 1,300 tonnes came from the tanks of the back part of the tanker "Volgoneft-139" and the 1,000 tonnes of oil that remained onboard were pumped out before the vessel was towed to Kavkaz Harbour. Slight residual leakage from the grounded front part was reported, where about 1000 tonnes of oil remained onboard.
  • The Russian vessel Volnogorsk was shipwrecked and now lies at a depth of 10.6 m with 2,500 tonnes of sulphur on board. There is no observed leakage of marine diesel oil.
  • The Russian vessel Nahichevan sank to a depth of 9.5 m with 2,400 tonnes of sulphur on board.
  • The Russian vessel Kovel, with 2,100 tonnes of sulphur onboard, drifted towards the Ukrainian shoreline and sank almost in the middle of the channel to a depth of 9.3 m. Divers surveying the wreck observed a slight fuel leak due to the destruction of the engine compartment.

The total amount of oil spilt was estimated at 1,300 tonnes of heavy fuel oil, 2.3 tonnes of oil lubricants, 25 tonnes of marine diesel oil and 5.5 tonnes of heating oil.

 

Location of the Kerch Strait
Location of the Kerch Strait

Response and impact

During the days following the incident, the weather conditions remained unfavourable, making spill response operations difficult, especially at sea. The first actions on land mainly consisted of shoreline surveys and manual recovery operations in less exposed areas.

According to the Marine Coordination Emergency and Rescue Center in Kerch, on 21st November, more than 500 people from the Ukrainian Ministry of Emergencies and civilian volunteers were involved in shoreline clean-up, as well as 30 surveillance vessels and 15 vessel cleaning units. The quantity of waste recovered was around 1,700 tonnes in Ukraine and 13,000 tonnes in Russia.

In total, several dozen kilometres of coastline were oiled, both in Russia (Taman Peninsula, Chushka Spit) and in Ukraine (areas of Kerch, Zhukovka, Podmayachnaya, Geroevka, Opasnaya and Tuzla island).

Through response operations, around 200 tonnes of heavy fuel oil was recovered and approximately 70,000 tonnes of oiled waste (sand, oil, debris and vegetation) was removed to be disposed of in Russia and 6,500 in Ukraine.

Significant bird mortality was recorded; the Russian government reported that around 30,000 birds had been killed, although this figure remains to be confirmed.

According to the Russian authorities, the cost of environmental damages could be up to €170 million. This was the largest oil spill the country had ever faced.

European assistance

On 14th November, assistance was offered to the Ukrainian and Russian authorities by the European Commission in response to this pollution in the Sea of Azov. On the 16th, the Ukrainian authorities accepted this offer. As part of the European Community Civil Protection Mechanism, the Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC) appointed a team of 5 European experts, including a representative of Cedre. On 18th November, the team left for Kiev from Rome in an Italian civil protection plane. Ten days after events first began, these experts visited several polluted sites in Ukraine. The objectives of the EU team were to assist the Ukrainian authorities in assessing the environmental impact of the disaster, to observe the development of the pollution and to advise on the most appropriate clean-up methods.

Last update: 02/07/2014

External links

European Commission United Nations Environment Programme joint report: Oil Spill in the Kerch Strait - Ukraine Post-Disaster Needs Assessment 

Sea Alarm, Information on the impact of the pollution on wildlife, including regular updates on the situation

IOPC Funds: Compensation claims.