On this day in history : 5th January 1993 – The oil tanker MV Braer runs aground off the coast of the Shetland Islands, spilling its 84,700 tons of crude oil….
The 800ft ship, which had been built in Japan in 1975, did not have the more modern double hull, which would have offered more protection from spillage…. The Liberian-registered tanker was travelling from Bergen in Norway to Quebec in Canada when it ran into trouble after being caught in Force 11 gales…. At 5.19am the Lerwick Coastguard was first notified that the vessel had lost power….
Desperate efforts by salvage teams were made to try and avert disaster…. Anchor handling vessel Star Sirius was brought in to attempt to tow the stricken ship….but was unsuccessful – and so the crew of the tanker had to be airlifted to safety by helicopter….
At 11.19am MV Braer was confirmed at having run aground on rocks at Quendale Bay, at the southern tip of Shetland…. From the moment of impact oil could be seen pouring into the sea – in an area renowned for its sea birds and marine wildlife…. A week later, during the most intense extratropical cyclone ever recorded in the northern Atlantic, the tanker broke up….
A later report into the disaster chiefly blamed bad weather but also held the Greek captain, Alexandros Gelis, to account for lack of basic seamanship….