- Khark 5
- Accident date
- Accident area
- 400 miles north of Las Palmas, the Canary Islands
- Spill area
- Cause of spill
- Quantity transported
- 200, 000 tonnes
- Nature of pollutant
- Iranian heavy crude oil
- Quantity spilled
- 70, 000 tonnes
- Ship / structure type
- Built date
On 19 December 1989, the Iranian oil tanker Khark 5, en route from Kharg Island to Rotterdam, was caught in a storm and suffered an explosion off the coast of Safi, 400 miles north of the Canary Islands. Four tanks were damaged causing a continuous spill of 70,000 tonnes of Iranian crude oil, a quarter of the vessel's cargo. Over about 12 days, leaks estimated at 200 t/h were reported.
The explosion was followed by a fire which was quickly controlled. The vessel was then towed by a Smit Tak tug to move it away from the Moroccan coast. For several weeks, a port of refuge or sheltered area was sought in order to carry out a lightering operation. However, no country gave the vessel permission to approch its coast and so the oil continued to flow at sea. As with the Tanio, this incident once again highlighted the issue of ports and zones of refuge.
The Moroccan government was poorly prepared to face an accidental oil spill and was given assistance by international experts.
In total, the cargo carried by Khark 5 consisted of 225,000 tonnes of Iranian crude oil. Aromatic petroleum products made up a third of this cargo. This high proportion of aromatics favoured the evaporation of the oil into the atmosphere and its dispersion in the water mass in the form of micelles, thus avoiding heavy ecological impact.
Oil slick dispersal, cleaning and recovery operations required the mobilization of considerable human and material resources. Daily flights over the slick were carried out to observe its movement toward the Moroccan and Spanish coasts (the Canary Islands). Treatment of the slicks was carried out using dispersants but was soon stopped as it proved ineffective due to the oil not forming a sufficiently dense and continuous slick. No arrivals of oil on the Moroccan coast were reported, nor were any beachings of dead animals.
NOAA: story, oil slicks behaviour, actions ....