Urquiola

Starting Date 
Sunday, December 12, 1976
Type 
tanker
Location 
oil terminal at La Coruna, Spain
Estimated Spillage 
733,000 barrels (36.6 million gallons) (513,000 of this burned)

This Spanish oil supertanker (276.54 m long and 39.07 m wide) struck rocks (that possibly were not listed on the charts) during Spring low tide while approaching the oil terminal at La Coruna, Spain. It was subsequently grounded while being assisted out of the harbor, and an explosion two hours later (killing the captain) was followed by 16-hour fire. There was a second explosion and fire and limited leakage from a crack in the tank of the stern section of the ship.

Clean-up Efforts 
  • Over 2,000 tons of chemical dispersants applied using 11 tugs and helicopters, including on the beaches, and is believed to have caused oil to penetrate into the sediments.
  • Booms used with limited effect.
  • Skimmers used, but most of them clogged with debris and were ineffective.
  • Sawdust applied but was ineffective in heavily oiled areas.
  • Front-end loaders and graders forced oil deeper in the sediments.
  • Buckets and shovels (manual labor) for much of the cleanup.
Impacts 
  • An estimated 180,000 to 220,000 barrels of oil polluted the Spanish coast.
  • Approximately 134 miles (215 km) of northwestern Spanish coast was oiled, with 37 miles receiving moderate (25–65% coverage) and heavy (more than 65% coverage) oiling; most of the oiling was in 3 bays.
  • Much of the oil emulsified (some up to ½ meter thick), mixing with seaweed and debris.
  • Oil penetrated some intertidal zone beaches several feet deep.
  • Oil droplets resulting from the fires rained upon residents in the nearby city of La Coruna.
  • Shellfish fisheries:
    • Up to 70% of clams killed in some areas
    • Similar mortalities of mussels and oysters
  • Minimal impact on bird populations (very few, other than gulls, seen in the area).
  • Inshore fisheries were shut down by fishermen choice.
  • Offshore fisheries remained open and large catches of several species made the following year.