- Accident date
- Accident area
- Cies Islands, Vigo Bay, Galicia
- Spill area
- Cause of spill
- Quantity transported
- 49, 400 tonnes
- Nature of pollutant
- Arabian light crude oil
- Quantity spilled
- 15, 000 tonnes
- Ship / structure type
- Built date
- 217.84 m
- 29.6 m
On 5 May 1970, the Norwegian oil tanker Polycommander was travelling from Sidon (Lebanon) to Donges (France) when it had to be rerouted to Vigo (Galicia) to drop off an ill passenger. The vessel grounded on a reef while attempting to enter the port.
15,000 tonnes of light Arabian crude oil were spilt at sea and went on fire due to sparks from the exhaust line of a passing fishing boat. For over 30 hours, the Polycommander was devastated by a fire and several explosions. The crew and the few passengers onboard were all safely evacuated in time.
Foam was applied to extinguish the fire and dispersant was simultaneously spread on the oil slick from aircraft and tugs. The use of plastic floating booms proved ineffective.
The heat generated by this terrible fire led to air movements causing the smoke and volatile fractions to rise high into the atmosphere. They then settled on certain villages located inland, covering them in a black film. Tar balls and patties arrived on the Spanish shores, polluting 5 km of coastline.
The wreck of the Polycommander was refloated on 26 July 1970. The breach was plugged in a makeshift fashion to be able to tow the vessel to Piraeus (Greece) where more thorough repairs were made. After complete renovation, the Polycommander became operational again.
The damages were estimated at 480,000 dollars in the 1970s. In parallel, a Spanish court condemned the captain of the Polycommander and his second officer, despite a manifest error on behalf of the Spanish pilot.
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