This is by far the biggest post-1990 spill.
Yet it has received almost no publicity.
Classic case of leakage into midships segregated ballast tank.
Despite what the Liberian report says,
the Chief Mate did not create the dangerous situation.
The corrosion in the ballast tank caused this spill
one of the top five tanker spills of all time.
To blame him for only using one blower is nuts.
However, this does demonstrate the possibly delayed nature
of this sort of spill.
The leak presumably opened up in bad weather on the east side
of the Cape of Good Hope,
but the spill did not occur until the ship had rounded the Cape
and the weather had improved to the point
where the crew could inspect the tank.
The crew probably was the source of ignition,
but the real cause was the structural failure.
Same thing almost certainly happened in the Castillo de Bellver loss.
The flag state report, which CTX has not seen,
has the ship fully loaded, so does ITOP.,
But for some reason this spill shows up as 15 million gallons
(about 50,000 tons) in the OSIR database.
The flag state/ITOPF are almost certainly correct.
The only possible reason why a VLCC would only have 50,000 tons
onboard on this route is if she had illegally off-loaded in South Africa.
CTX knows of no evidence suggesting that happened.
The 1974 built ship was insured for 40.5 million dollars
which was far above the market value of at most
23 million in a rapidly falling market.
The H+M underwriters refused to pay the claim
alledging the ship was not seaworthy.
CTX does not know what evidence they had,
but it must have been substantial,
for this is rarely done.
The Arab owner, Somatra, brought suit against the underwriters.
The London law firm representing the owners
was Sinclar Roche and Temperly led by Harvey Williams.
Williams is one of the most well-known, respected admiralty lawyers
in the profession and a personal friend.
He is totally honest.
He advised his obnoxious clients to settle,
but they were determined to go to court.
If Harvey thought they that had a winnable case,
he certainly would have agreed with them.
I don't know any of the details,
but Harvey may have over-stepped his authority
in arranging a settlement.
The owners then successfully sued Sinclair, Roche
for not following instructions,
besmirsching one of the most respected men in the business.
We can be sure that, if Harvey Williams thought
that the ship was legally unseaworthy,
then it was unseaworthy.