Oil spills are one of the main factors that cause long term adverse effect on marine life. The spills take months to clean up and can result in death of thousands of marine animals and birds. It has been found out that, despite all cleaning efforts, considerable amount of oil remains in the area affected by spill, causing long term environmental problems. Furthermore, the use of dispersants in an attempt to reduce the amount of oil left in the ocean, actually causes the oil to break down into smaller components, which pose even a greater threat for ocean life, as they find their way into the food chain, gradually poisoning the environment. Oil spills have also played a significant role in near extinction of several species of fish and marine animals. For example, Atlantic bluefin tuna and dwarf seahorse became nearly extinct as a result of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Here are the 10 worst oil spills in the World history
- The largest oil spill occurred in Kuwait during the Gulf war on 19 January 1991. It was a deliberate act by the Iraqi forces as they opened oil valves to slow down the advance of American troops. Around 330 million gallons of oil were spilled on to the sea, which covered more than 4,000 square km with a 4 inch thick oil slick.
- The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on 22 April 2010, which is known as the largest accidental spill in history, released an estimated 210 million gallons of oil into the ocean. The spill was caused by the explosion at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf region. The oil continuously flowed for over 85 days until it was capped on 15 July 2010. The massive oil spill left 572 miles of shoreline covered with oil slick and cost the lives of thousands of birds and marine creatures. Experts have stated that this oil spill will have long term environmental impact.
- Oil well Ixtoc 1 in the Bay of Campeche in Mexico exploded due to pressure buildup in June 1979, releasing 140 million gallons into the sea for ten months. The spilled oil covered the area of 1100 square miles and caused severe damage to marine life.
- The explosion of Atlantic Empress, which was the result of the collision of two full supertankers off the coast of Tobago in the Caribbean Sea ranks as number 4 in our list. The accident released 88.3 million gallons of oil to the ocean. It also damaged both ships, and caused one of the tankers to explode claiming the lives of 26 crew members.
- The massive Nowruz oil field spill in the Persian gulf of Iran took place on 10 February 1983. The spill occurred when an oil tanker crashed into the Nowruz field platform during the war between Iran and Iraq, damaging the oil field underneath and releasing over 80 million gallons of crude oil to the sea. The spill continued for 7 months and leaked approximately 1,500 barrels of oil per day.
- The explosion of ABT Summer tanker in 1991 off the coast of Angola, spilled 80 million gallons of oil into the ocean, causing oil slick that covered the area over 80 square miles. The tanker burned for three days before sinking; however the oil was broken up by high seas, therefore caused relatively small environmental damage.
- The Kovla River oil spill which took place on 6 August 1983 in Russia was caused by the poor maintenance of the pipeline. This resulted the release of 84 million gallons of fuel. The dike containing the oil had collapsed due to cold weather conditions, causing the oil to spread across 170 acres of streams, bogs and marshes, destroying the whole ecosystem.
- Tanker Amoco Cadiz ran aground off the coast of Brittany, France, in 1978, spilling 68.7 million gallons of oil. The accident was caused by the failure to steer the vessel during a severe storm. The oil was spilled into the English Channel, claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of marine creatures.
- Explosion of the M/T Haven tanker off the coast of Italy on 11 April 1991 killed six people and leaked 45 million gallons of oil for 12 years. The reason for the explosion was thought to be the ship’s lack of maintenance. The oil spill caused severe damages to the marine life.
- The Torrey Canyon oil spill near Scilly Isles (UK) occurred on 18 March 1967. The supertanker collided with a reef off the coast of Cornwall, spilling around 36 million gallons of oil into the sea. The spill polluted 180 miles of coastland and the oil slick expanded for over 270 nautical miles, killing more than 15,000 birds and damaging marine life in the whole region.