Braer The Braer ran aground in severe weather conditions on Garth's Ness, Shetland on 5th January, 1993
and over a period of 12 days the entire cargo of 84,700 tonnes of Norwegian Gullfaks crude oil,
plus up to 1,500 tonnes of heavy bunker oil, was lost as almost constant gales broke the ship apart.
Weather conditions prevented the use of mechanical recovery equipment at sea,
although about 130 tonnes of chemical dispersant was applied from aircraft
during periods when the wind abated slightly and some oil remained on the surface.
Oiling of shorelines was temporary
and clean-up involved the collection of oily debris and seaweed by a small workforce.
The Braer spill was very unusual in that a surface slick was not produced.
A combination of the light nature of the oil
and the exceptionally strong wind and wave energy naturally dispersed the oil through the water column.
The oil droplets were adsorbed onto sediment particles which eventually sunk to the sea bed.
Sub-surface currents led to this oil being spread over a very wide area,
although a significant portion eventually ended up in two deep, fine mud sediment `sinks'.
A wide range of fish and shellfish over a fairly large area became contaminated with oil,
resulting in the imposition of a Fisheries Exclusion Zone.
Farmed salmon held in sea cages in the surface waters within this zone bore the brunt of the contamination
since they could not escape the cloud of dispersed oil.
Although this contamination was lost quickly once clean water conditions returned,
millions of salmon that could not be marketed had to be destroyed.
Although the Exclusion Zone was progressively lifted
as fish and shellfish species were found by chemical analysis and taste testing to be free of contamination,
it was still in place at the end of 1997 for a small Nephrops fishery in one of the fine mud areas.
The spill was unusual in that a significant amount of oil
was blown on to land adjacent to the wreck site.
The effects of this airborne oil were localised
and had no more than a temporary effect on vegetation and sheep.
Seabird casualties were also relatively low.
Considering the size of the spill, the environmental impacts were surprisingly limited.