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Accident date
Accident area
Southern tip of the Shetlands
Spill area
Cause of spill
Quantity transported
84, 500 tonnes
Nature of pollutant
crude oil
Quantity spilled
84, 500 tonnes
Ship / structure type
Oil tanker
Built date
241.51 m
40.06 m
Braer Corp.

On the night of 4 January 1993, while sailing in a heavy storm on the shortest but most dangerous route from Norway to Canada, the Liberian oil tanker the Braer suffered engine failure due to the entrance of sea water in her bunkers. Rapid evacuation of the crew on the morning of 5 January and the lack of a high sea tug in the area meant that the ship could not be towed. She ran aground west of Sumburgh Head, on the southern tip of the Shetlands at 11:19 am. The damage to the tanker led to the release of her cargo of crude oil.

Heavy response equipment and specialised personnel were quickly sent to the site of the accident, and the response team had to compete with media crews for the little housing available on the island. Adverse weather conditions rendered response operations at sea impossible and limited the onshore operations. The remaining oil therefore leaked from the vessel and was naturally by wave action.

A large zone had to be set up around the vessel, where a total fishing ban was imposed. Salmon farms further north were affected and stocks of market size fish, unsuitable for consumption, had to be destroyed. Sheep bred outside were also affected and houses had their roofs spattered with hydrocarbon particles.

More than 2,000 victims claimed compensation from the ship owner, his protection and indemnity club and the International Oil Compensation Fund. The majority of the claims were settled amicably within the three year time limit of the fund for such settlements. The remaining claimants embarked upon legal proceedings, which were mostly settled out of court within the three following years. In October 2001 the last negotiations came to an end. Total payment for this incident amounted to £58.4 million, out of which £52.2 million was paid by the IOPC Fund.

The incident generated considerable concern about shipping safety in the United Kingdom, leading to a national inquiry, known as (Lord Donaldson's Inquiry). The report submitted, entitled "Safer ships, cleaner seas", proposed several major changes in the national pollution prevention and response organisations.

Last update on 02/05/2004

External links

ITOPF, Incident overview and selected bibliography

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