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Accident date
Accident area
off Cervantes, Western Australia
Spill area
Cause of spill
Structural damage
Product transported
light Arabian crude oil (Murban)
Quantity transported
83, 000 tonnes
Quantity spilled
18, 000 tonnes
Ship / structure type
Oil tanker
Built date
265.69 m
39.07 m

The incident

In the early hours of 21st July 1991, the tanker Kirki was caught in a storm on its way from Dhanna, UAE to Kwinana in Australia. It was carrying 83,000 tonnes of light crude oil. The hull structure was damaged and a fire broke out at the bow. The heavy swell breaking on the deck of the vessel rapidly extinguished the blaze but the bow of the vessel broke off  55 nautical miles off the coast of Cervantes in Western Australia. The 37 crew members were airlifted out by helicopter. Three tanks had been damaged, releasing 18,000 tonnes of oil into the sea.

Towing operations

On the 21st July, the off-shore support vessel Lady Kathleen arrived at the Kirki. The lack of crew made the intervention difficult. The vessel was towed away from Jurien Bay. Weather conditions meant that the convoy was faced with a heavy swell, leading to further oils spills.

The initial repairs on the vessel's machine and structure were undertaken at sea during towing operations.

Once the vessel was in a safe area, the lightering operations began. 66,000 tonnes of crude oil, over 8 tanks, was transferred to the tanker Flying Clipper. The transfer was completed on the 19th August and the Flying Clipper was able to depart to deliver the oil to Kwinana.

Spill Response

Australia's National Plan was activated on the 22nd July to prevent a large scale environmental disaster. The oil slick was drifting in a south-westerly direction.

Light crude oil tends to naturally evaporate and disperse in water under the wave action generated by heavy swell.

The physico-chemical properties of this type of product (low pour point, low wax content and low viscosity) meant that the use of dispersants was an option. Dispersants were applied to the oil slicks from vessels and aircraft.

The slick did not reach lobster fisheries or the habitat of many marine birds.

No significant pollution was reported along the coastline. The majority of equipment transported to Jurien Bay for on-land response was not required.

The vessel was declared a total loss and was broken up for scrap in Huangpu, China in mid-October 1991.

Last update on 07/09/2013

External links

AMSA, Incident report

Marine safety investigations & reports, from the Australian Government

NOAA database (IncidentNews)

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