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Accident date
Accident area
Mouth of Oslofjord, in Ytre Hvaler National Park (Norway)
Spill area
Cause of spill
Product transported
containers of HNS, explosives and other substances
Quantity transported
3, 457 tonnes (430 containers)
Nature of pollutant
heavy fuel oil (bunker fuel)
Quantity spilled
112 m3
Ship / structure type
Container ship
Built date
165 m
28 m

The incident

On Thursday 17 February at 8 pm, the Icelandic container ship Godafoss grounded near the city of Fredrikstad, in the south-east of Norway near the Swedish border. In the midst of the only Norwegian national marine park and in favourable climatic conditions for navigation, the Godafoss was unable to avoid a 100 to 200 metre wide reef.

The Norwegian Coastal Administration, local municipalities and the Norwegian and Swedish Coast Guards were immediately mobilised. During the night, the first traces of oil were observed. Two floating containment systems were deployed around the vessel. During the night and the following days, several spill response vessels, some of which were specially designed for response in cold waters, and tugs from Kystverket (Norwegian Coastal Administration) arrived from Sweden and Norway.

On 21 February, the containers on board the Godafoss were unloaded and a pumping operation began. Certain systems were affected during the accident and only 123 m3 of the 553 m3 of fuel oil on board were pumped out. The ship was lightered and inspected by divers in order to be taken to Denmark where it was to be repaired. According to the analysis presented by the ship owner, the pollution risks during this journey were low. The Norwegian Coastal Administration authorised the ship to travel from the incident area to the Danish shipyard. The Godafoss anchored in the port of Odense in the afternoon of 7 March.


The response effort began offshore. New vessel and aircraft technologies enabled teams to monitor and collect the oil that was drifting under the influence of the prevailing marine currents.

The low temperatures (-20°C and -2°C in the water) were a challenge for response. Firstly, they caused the water to freeze, trapping the oil in the ice. These small quantities frozen into the ice were recovered with difficulty using excavators. Furthermore, the low temperatures made it impossible to use pumps as the pollutant's viscosity had risen. The teams therefore used grabs to remove the oil from the booms. In the process, a lot of ice and snow was also recovered. The oil was separated from the water on board. The ice and snow had to be melted to prevent pipes from freezing. Response vessels working in such conditions must be equipped with a heating  system.

Despite these difficulties, at sea response was successful as after four days 50% (compared to the usual 10 to 15%) of the pollutant had been recovered (55m3 recovered out of 112m3 spilt).

Along the east coast of Norway, 130 sites were lightly oiled. The high proportion of oil recovered at sea resulted in lower impact on the shoreline. Bird sanctuaries and public beaches were the first to be cleaned, by mid-April.


According to estimations, the Godafoss spilt 112 m3 of heavy fuel oil. Most of the polluted sites were inspected and declared clean following the clean-up phase in spring 2011.

Seabirds, and in particular Eider ducks, were most affected by this oil spill.

The lessons learnt from this example of response in a cold environment include: the difficulties encountered in extreme conditions (in particular temperatures), the impact of these conditions on equipment efficiency (vessels and oil pumps) and the importance of collaboration between the various response teams (here Norwegian and Swedish).




- BERGSTROM R. Lessons learned the Godafoss accident in Feb. 2011.Oil spill recovery at -20°C. In: Interspill, 13-15 mars 2012, Londres. Londres: Interspill, 2012, 6 pages.

- BERGSTROM R. The Full City accident – Langesund, July 2009, and Godafoss February 2011 Hvaler Lessons learned. Norwegian Coastal Administration Emergency response, Kystverket.

- The grounding of “Godafoss”. In : Meeting of the Working Group on Operational, Technical and Scientific Questions Concerning Counter Pollution Activities (OTSOPA), 24-27 May 2011, Ebeltoft. Londres: Bonn Agreement, 2011, 2 pages.

Last update on 13/06/2012

See also

Sea & Shore Technical Newsletter, Year 2011, Number 33

Cedre Newsletter n°188, Norway: oil in marine reserve

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