- Tasman Spirit
- Accident date
- Accident area
- Outside Karachi harbour
- Spill area
- Cause of spill
- Quantity transported
- 67,000 tonnes
- Nature of pollutant
- Iranian crude oil
- Quantity spilled
- 27,000 tonnes
- Ship / structure type
- Oil tanker
On 27 July 2003, the oil tanker the Tasman Spirit, loaded with 67,000 tonnes of Iranian crude, grounded in the access channel to Karachi harbour. The hull was perforated and around 27,000 tonnes of crude were spilled. Lightering operations on 13 August allowed 13,000 tonnes of oil to be recovered, after which bad meteorological conditions interrupted operations and split the vessel in two.
The first response measures consisted in the use of floating booms and in the application of dispersants from tug boats. The situation worsened and means from the OSRL-EARL oil cooperative were mobilised and a dispersant spraying C130 aircraft based in Singapore was sent on site, according to advice from the experts from ITOPF (International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation).
On 18 August, 25,000 tonnes of hydrocarbons in total had been recovered from the vessel’s tanks, which still contained an estimated 14,000 tonnes. Floating booms were deployed around the wreck and boats fitted with dispersant spray gear worked on the contained product. Aerial spraying, implemented from 15 to 17 August reduced noticeably the quantity of hydrocarbons visible on the surface of water. In total, 16 tonnes of dispersants were sprayed on the oil slicks. The aircraft stayed on stand-by and vessel spraying went on.
Onshore, pollution reached Clifton Beach (next to Karachi), with an estimated volume of 300 m³ covering some 6 km. Some areas around the harbour and some mangrove swamps were also affected. Oleophilic disc skimmers were used on the harbour shoreline for the cleaning operations, while on the coastline recovery was carried out manually.
On 22 August the structure of the vessel collapsed. Further release of oil was reported on 29 August. 1,800 m³ of hydrocarbons remained onboard, including lubricating oil and 200 m³ of heavy propulsion fuel (IFO 180). The most viscous products were recovered with a TK-80 pump from Europe. After this new spill, aerial spraying was implemented again. The volume of dispersants used rose to 31 tonnes from the C130 and 6 tonnes from the boats. Offshore recovery operations became difficult because of the presence of large waste in the oil. According to OSRL, 143 m³ had been pumped out of the vessel in the harbour on 23 August, and 0.5 to 2 m³ were recovered each day.
On the coast various recovery techniques were used. A coarse cleaning operation was carried out manually and by mechanical recovery, and then harrowing eased natural cleaning.
By September there were no significant traces of hydrocarbons left on Clifton Beach. Nevertheless, pollution remained deeply buried in different places. In order to avoid accumulation of small unpolluted waste, this pollution was left for natural degradation. 2,500 tonnes of polluted materials (mainly polluted sand) were collected.
Pakistan, not belonging to the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds, could only claim damages from the ship owner's Protection and Indemnity Club. Advised by US experts, the government claimed amounts to the order of 1 billion US dollars, far above any standard outside the USA, and detained seven crew members of the vessel as a guarantee. Discussion of the general principles of compensation between government delegates and the P&I representatives reduced the gap between parties and led to the release of the detained crew members on 14 April 2004 after nine months in prison. The amount of compensation awarded remains unknown.