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10 worst oil spills that cost trillions in losses

Last updated on: August 11, 2010 08:30 IST

Image: Fishermen take pictures of a damaged cargo ship MSC Chitra in the Arabian Sea off the Mumbai coast.
Photographs: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters.

One of the biggest maritime disasters in India, the collision between MSC Chitra with MV Khalijia-III on Saturday about five kilometres off the Mumbai coast has brought maritime activity to a grinding halt in the region.

All shipping activities have been suspended at the two busiest ports, the Mumbai Port and the Jawaharlal Nehru Port, which together handle 70 per cent of martime trade in India.

Besides, trade, the seafood industry is also likely to be hit as fishermen have been asked not to carry out any fishing activities till the oil spill is contained. About 400 tonnes of oil is estimated to have been spilt in this disaster.

The marine life and ecology along the Mumbai coastline and the Arabian Sea are likely to be impacted as the spill would take a month to be fully under control, although the government says that the Mumbai harbour, which has been affected by the recent oil spill, would be cleared for transportation by August 15.

This is reportedly the worst-ever oil spill in the Arabian Sea. So which are the world's worst oil spills? Click NEXT to find out . . .

10 worst oil spills that cost trillions in losses

Image: Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon.
Photographs: US Coast Guard/Handout/Ho New/Reuters
1. BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico

The world's largest oil spill occurred in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, when an explosion in the Deepwater Horizon of BP Plc claimed 11 lives and spewed millions of barrels of oil into the sea. The spill has caused extensive damage to marine and wildlife habitats, and the fishing and tourism industries.

The Mexican Gulf disaster which attracted widespread criticism from the US government also cost BP's embattled CEO Tony Hayward his job. BP has till date spent $6.1 billion in the aftermath of the oil spill.

Till August 7, the company had received 145,000 claims and over 103,900 payments, together worth $319 million, have been made. About 30,800 personnel are still involved in the clean up operations. Under pressure from the Obama government, BP unveiled a $20 billion fund in June to meet the obligations arising out of the oil spill on April 20, after an explosion on board the company's drilling rig.

About 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled into the sea before the leak from the well was stopped on July 15. Ravaged by the spill, the British energy major slumped into a staggering loss of $17.15 billion in the three months ending June 2010. In July, BP announced that Hayward would step down as Group CEO from October 1.

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10 worst oil spills that cost trillions in losses

Image: An oil lake lies near a blazing pipeline outside Basra.
Photographs: Chris Helgren/Reuters.
2. Gulf War oil spill

Tonnes of oil spilled: 1,360,000-1,500,000

The devastating oil spill in the Persian Gulf started on January 23, 1991 when Iraqi armed forces opened valves at the Sea Island oil terminal and let out oil from tankers into the Gulf waters. This was done to stall the US Marines from advancing.

The oil slick destroyed the marine eco system and killed thousand of birds, besides casuing billions of dollars in monetary losses.

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10 worst oil spills that cost trillions in losses

Image: Misterveel Rodriguez.
Photographs: Robert Campbell/Reuters.
3. Ixtoc I

Tonnes of oil spilled: 454,000-480,000

Ixtoc I was an exploratory oil well in the Bay of Campeche of the Gulf of Mexico. On June 3, 1979, the well suffered a blowout resulting in a major oil spill. It took over nine months to stop the spill, resulting in an environmental havoc. Thousands of sea turtles were rescued from the site.

The accident occured when Pemex (Petroleos Mexicanos), Mexico's state-owned oil major, was drilling a deep oil well.

The losses were estimated at close to $600 million.

Image: Within a week of the explosion of Mexico's Ixtoc offshore oil well in June 1979, Misterveel Rodriguez and other village fishermen were pulling up nets choked with tarballs instead of fish.

10 worst oil spills that cost trillions in losses

Image: Oil slick pollutes.
4. The Atlantic Empress and the Aegean Captain

Tonnes of oil spilled: 287,000

On July 19, 1979, two ships the Atlantic Empress (carrying 276,000 tonnes of crude oil) and the Aegean Captain (carrying 200,000 tonnes of crude oil) collided with each other in the Caribbean Sea, off the Tobago island. Twenty-six sailors were killed in this tragedy.

The oil was consigned to petroleum giant Mobil.

The crew of the Aegean Captain managed to control the fire in the ship. But the fire in the burning Atlantic Empress could not be controlled. Ten days later, a powerful explosion led the ship to wreck spilling tones of oil. Over 280,000 tonnes of oil was spilled.

The massive environmental damage that this monstrous oil spill cost has never really been fully estimated. However, in terms of money, the spill cost close to half a billion dollars.

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10 worst oil spills that cost trillions in losses

Image: Fergana Valley.
5. Fergana Valley

Tonnes of oil spilled: 285,000

The largest inland oil spill took place in March 1992 when 88 million gallons of oil spilled from a well in Fergana Valley, an agricultural zone in Uzbekistan.

It is also the worst oil spill in the history of Asia. The oil caught fire and burnt for two months.

The losses were estimated at over $200 million.

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10 worst oil spills that cost trillions in losses

Image: A disaster.
6. Nowruz Oil Field

Tonnes of oil spilled: 260,000

During the Iran-Iraq war in 1983, an oil tanker collided with the Nowruz platform in the Persian Gulf. The Nowruz oil field has witnessed many oil spills. The spill initially began when a tanker hit a platform. In March 1983, the platform was attacked by Iraqi helicopters and caught fire.

The well could not be capped due to the war. Eleven people were killed during the capping. Another spill occurred when Iraqi helicopters attacked a nearby platform in March 1983. About 80 million gallons (about 260,000 tonnes) of oil were spilled.

Monetary losses were estimated at close to half a billion dollars.

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10 worst oil spills that cost trillions in losses

Image: ABT Summer exploded.
7. ABT Summer

Tonnes of oil spilled: 260,000

The coast of Angola bore the brunt of a major oil spill when the Liberian supertanker ABT Summer exploded on May 28, 1991. Five crew members lost their lives.

The monetary losses if this spill were estimated at over $120 million.

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10 worst oil spills that cost trillions in losses

Image: Major destruction.
8. Castillo de Bellver

Tonnes of oil spilled: 252,000

An explosion on the Spanish tanker Castillo de Bellver on August 6, 1983 resulted in a spill of 78 million gallons of oil off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa.

However, a shift in the win direction pushed the oil offshore prevented catastrophic environmental hazards.

Losses were estimated at $100 million.

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10 worst oil spills that cost trillions in losses

Image: Amoco Cadiz sinks.
9. Amoco Cadiz

Tonnes of oil spilled: 223,000

Owned by Amoco, Amoco Cadiz split after running aground on Portsall Rocks, 5 km from the coast of Brittany, France, on March 16, 1978. The crew was rescued by French Naval Aviation helicopters.

On March 17, the vessel broke in to two, releasing 223,000 tons of oil into the into the English Channel. It caused a huge environmental disaster affecting marine life and killing sea birds.

The losses were estimated at close to $100 million.

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10 worst oil spills that cost trillions in losses

Image: Oil spill lasted for 12 years.
10. M/T Haven

Tonnes of oil spilled: 144,000

The M/T Haven, a very large crude carrier (VLCC), suffered a huge explosion off the coast of Genoa, Italy, on April 11, 1991. Six crew members were killed. The Mediterranean coasts of Italy and France remained polluted for about 12 years.

The M/T Haven was unloading a cargo of 230,000 tonnes of crude oil at the Multedo platform when it caught fire and exploded, spilling the oil into the Mediterranean Sea.

Losses are estimated at $100 million.