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Urquiola; La Coruña, Spain

La Coruña, Spain | 1976-May-12

Initial Notification: On May 12, 1976, the Tank Vessel Urquiola struck a submerged object while approaching the Coruña Oil Terminal at La Coruña, Spain. The vessel began to leak cargo from the damaged bow section. Due to the threat of explosion and fire, the Port Commandant ordered the Urquiola out of the harbor, away from the refinery and town of 200,000 inhabitants. While being assisted out of the harbor by two tugs, the leaking vessel grounded again, further rupturing the bow tanks. All of the crew, except for the captain and pilot, abandoned the ship when it began to list. Two hours later the vessel exploded, killing the captain. Approximately 513,000 barrels of oil burned in the subsequent 16-hour fire. Burning oil spread out from the vessel and was eventually extinguished by the cooling effect of the seawater. Dense clouds of smoke were blown over the town of La Coruña. A safety zone one mile in radius was established around the vessel after air monitors detected high levels of volatile gases. Despite these precautions, a second explosion and fire rocked the vessel on the morning of May 14. Between May 12 and May 21, oil was estimated to be leaking at a rate of 2,200 barrels per day. An estimated 180,000-220,000 barrels of the cargo polluted the Spanish coast. On May 21, a smaller tanker and tug began lightering the Urquiola. About 50,000 barrels of crude oil had been removed from the vessel by May 25, when lightering operations were halted by rough seas. Ten to fifteen foot seas detached a large section of the bow. On June 8, the stern section, containing an estimated 22,000 barrels of bunker fuel, was towed to a more protected area five miles to the west. The stern was partially lightered before developing a crack in one of the tanks that resulted in further, limited leakage. Following the fire, the Spanish Navy and a fleet of commercial vessels applied over 2,000 tons of chemical dispersants to the Urquiola and surrounding waters in spite of resistance mounted by Spanish oceanographers. Cleanup of the oiled shoreline was primarily accomplished by manual labor. Skimmers and booms were used for water recovery with mixed results. Keyword: Adverse weather conditions, skimmer, boom, fire, explosion, manual removal, contingency plan, sawdust, reoiling, vacuum truck, lightering..

Incident Details
Primary threat:Oil
Products of concern:Light Arabian crude oil, Bunker fuel
Total amount at risk of spill: 9,240,000 gallons
Latitude (approximate): 43° 22.00′ North
Longitude (approximate): 8° 23.00′ West
On-Water Recovery: Unknown/Not applicable
Shoreline Cleanup: Unknown/Not applicable
Dispersants: Applied
In-Situ Burn: Applied
Bioremediation: Unknown/Not applicable