In light of Italy’s ongoing Costa Concordia cruise ship catastrophe, TakePart takes a look at various maritime disasters from the past few years. Humans have been navigating the seaways since before civilizations began to come and go, but still we veer off course or tempt the wrath of Mother Nature, producing epically unfortunate collisions and groundings. The environmental impact of these accidents ranges from a few hundred tons of oil leaked to countless animals and marine life harmed. Click through for petro-tainted views of notorious environmental shipwrecks from the past two years.
Italy’s Costa Concordia in Giglio
The Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia is the world’s current poster child for environmental catastrophe. On January 13, the ship hit a reef, ran aground and partially sank near Giglio Island off Italy’s Tuscan coast. The ship, which had been carrying more than 4,200 passengers and crewmembers, is still missing more than two dozen people, and the death toll is expected to reach 30 people. To make matters worse, 500,000 gallons of fuel on the ship are poised to leak into the waters off Giglio, which form part of the protected Tuscan archipelago. Oil removal ships have been working to contain contaminants in the marine wildlife sanctuary. The mayor of Giglio Island called the Costa Concordia an “ecological time bomb.” The wreck recently shifted in the water, threatening rescue work and plans to pump out the oil.
Photo: Paul Hanna/Reuters
Malta’s TK Bremen Grounded in France
In December, high winds during winter storm Joachim knocked down the Maltese-registered cargo ship TK Bremen, which ran aground off of Erdeven beach on the coast of France. Following the crash, rescuers worked to pump fuel from the ship in an effort to empty it. The boat leaked 220 tons of fuel onto a local beach, impinging on a nature preserve of dunes and wildlife.
New Zealand’s Rena in the Astrolabe Reef
The container ship Rena ran into the Astrolabe Reef and crashed near the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island in October. Facing heavy winds and huge waves, the ship snapped in two. The remains, which still list in the water, have leaked 350 tons of oil and almost 100 shipping containers, spilling contents such as milk powder and timber. Crews have eliminated more than 1,100 tons of the oil, but hundreds more have spread into the ocean, killing seabirds and other wildlife. The crash has been described as one of New Zealand’s worst maritime environmental disasters.
Panama’s MSC Chitra and MV Khalijia-III in the Arabian Sea
Two Panamanian ships crashed in August 2010 in the Arabian Sea, dropping containers and an estimated 500 tons of oil into the ocean. Teams from the Navy and the Coast Guard worked to help contain the spill, with concerns about the marine life and ecology along the Mumbai coast. People were warned to stop eating sea fish while the team worked to pump 239 tons of diesel from the ship.
Malaysia’s Bunga Kelana 3 in the Singapore Strait
The Malaysian-flagged Bunga Kelana 3 crashed with a bulk carrier, MV Waily, in the waters between Malaysia and Singapore in May 2010. An estimated 2,500 tons of oil were spilled. Thankfully, no one was injured, and the speedy response of salvage teams mitigated the environmental impact.
China’s Shen Neng I in the Great Barrier Reef
In April 2010, the Chinese coal carrier Shen Neng I was traveling from Queensland and carrying 65,000 tons of coal when it ran aground upon the Great Barrier Reef off northeast Australia, sparking fears of damaging one of the world’s most treasured and essential ecological wonders. Divers found that the ship did indeed kill coral and produce toxic paint scrapings. The cleanup is expected to be the biggest salvage effort ever undertaken at the Great Barrier Reef. Environmentalists criticized the transformation of the world’s largest living organism into a “coal highway.”