Case study

bunker C crude oil spill along ocean shoreline

Site description and location - Mikuni, Japan

In January, 1997, the Russian tanker Nakhodka broke apart and sank in the Sea of Japan. The tanker was carrying 19,000 tons of heavy fuel oil (bunker C). The bow half floated for about 5 days. During this period about of 5,000 tons of heavy oil spilled into the sea. The bow then ran aground on the shelf near the Fukui coast near the town of Mikuni. The stern section contained about 11,000 tons of oil, and fell 2,500 meters to the sea floor. Sub robot video pictures show the stern to be continually leaking.

Impact of the Oil: The immediate impact was that approximately 5,000 tons of released oil was carried by wave action carried to the coast of Japan. By the middle of February the oil had impacted the coast of 10 Japanese Prefectures from Shimane to Akita, a distance of approx. 1,200 linear km. If all the inlets, bays, and promontories are included, the spill had a potential coastal impact of 12,000 km.

Description of oil after reaching shoreline. After the initial accident, a storm carried much of the beached oil high above the high tide line. A second impact was observed along the occasional sandy beach where the shifting sands (due to wave and tidal action) covered the oil previously deposited on the beach. This covered oil would most likely come to the surface during later sand movement. This oil had weathered in a month to dark varnish coatings on the rocks and jetties. Oil was also found on the driftwood and plastics that are brought ashore by storms and deposited high on the beach in the rocks or sand. One area was highly impacted with both old dark tar-like weathered oil from the initial spill, and light brown platter-like tar patties from newly released oil.



The crude oil spill along the shoreline and into sensitive marshlands was treated successfully..

Actual Time Frame – 180 days.

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