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Accident date
Irish Sea
Accident area
off Welsh coast
Spill area
Cause of spill
Quantity transported
1, 500 tonnes
Nature of pollutant
sunflower oil
Quantity spilled
1, 500 tonnes
Ship / structure type
Built date
Ernst Menzer-Werf, Geesthacht
73.31 m
11.23 m
4 m
Fathom shipping Ltd

On 6 January 1991, the cargo tanker Kimya was sailing in a heavy storm in the Irish Sea when she stranded off the south of the Isle of Anglesey (Wales). The incident caused the death of 10 crew members. Only two of the crew survived and were air-lifted by helicopter. A leak was observed in the vessel. However as she was loaded with sunflower oil, nobody thought of the possibility of pollution.

The hull of the Kimya was upturned and she drifted ashore. In February, the vessel was refloated. The wreck was eventually anchored to the seabed.

The Kimya lost her 1,500 tonnes cargo of sunflower oil over a period of 6 to 9 months. In autumn 1991, people started noticing strange things, looking like “chewing gum balls” on the beaches and high mussel mortality was reported. Scientific tests were carried out, revealing that molecules of sunflower oil had polymerised with wave action. Once on the beaches, the oil and sand formed an impermeable aggregate, under which shoreline species were prisoners. This seriously affected biodiversity. Mussels died by suffocation within 2 weeks after being in contact with the sunflower oil. Laboratory testing showed that their internal shell lost its nacre lining and that their external shell became chalky with the oil.

Almost 6 years later, concrete-like aggregates of sand remained on the beaches.


- HOOKE, Norman, 1997, Maritime Casualties 1963-1996, second edition, LLP Limited, Londres

Last update on 02/05/2004

External links

University of Alaska - Geophysical Institute, Look Before You Leak

US Environmental Protection Agency, Oil Pollution Prevention

CIIMAR database:  fate and weathering of Hazardous and Noxious Substances (HNS) involved

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