SS Torrey Canyon

SS Torrey Canyon was an LR2 Suezmax class oil tanker with a cargo capacity of 120,000 short tons (110,000 t) of crude oil.[1] She was shipwrecked off the western coast of Cornwall, England, on 18 March 1967, causing an environmental disaster. At that time she was the largest vessel ever to be wrecked.[1]

Name: SS Torrey Canyon
Owner: Barracuda Tanker Corporation
Operator: British Petroleum
Port of registry:  Liberia
Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co
Yard number: 532
Laid down: 1959
Launched: 28 October 1958
Fate: Sank after running aground on 18 March 1967
General characteristics
Type: Supertanker
Tonnage: 61,263 GRT
Length: 974.4 ft (297.0 m)
Beam: 125.4 ft (38.2 m)
Draught: 68.7 ft (20.9 m)
Propulsion: Single shaft; steam turbine
Speed: 17 knots (31 km/h; 20 mph)
Capacity: 120,000 tons of crude oil

Design and history

When laid down by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company in the United States in 1959, she had a capacity of 60,000 short tons (54,000 t). However, the ship was later enlarged in Japan to 120,000 short tons (110,000 t) capacity.

At the time of the shipwreck she was owned by Barracuda Tanker Corporation, a subsidiary of the Union Oil Company of California, and registered in Liberia[2] but chartered to British Petroleum. She was 974.4 feet (297.0 m) long, 125.4 feet (38.2 m) beam and had 68.7 feet (20.9 m) of draught..

Accident and oil spill

On 19 February 1967, Torrey Canyon left the Kuwait National Petroleum Company refinery, at Mina, Kuwait (later Al Ahmadi) on her final voyage with a full cargo of crude oil. The ship reached the Canary Islands on 14 March. From there the planned route was to Milford Haven in Wales.

Torrey Canyon struck Pollard's Rock on Seven Stones reef, between the Cornish mainland and the Isles of Scilly, on 18 March. It became grounded and, several days later, began to break up.

In an effort to reduce the size of the oil spill, the British government decided to set the wreck on fire, by means of air strikes from the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) and Royal Air Force (RAF). On 28 March 1967, FAA Blackburn Buccaneers from RNAS Lossiemouth dropped 1,000-pound bombs on the ship. Afterwards RAF Hawker Hunter from RAF Chivenor dropped cans of jet fuel (kerosene), to fuel the blaze.[3] However, the fire was put out by high tides, and further strikes were needed to re-ignite the oil, by FAA de Havilland Sea Vixens from RNAS Yeovilton and Buccaneers from the RNAS Brawdy, as well as Hunters of No 1(F) Squadron RAF from RAF West Raynham with napalm. Bombing continued into the next day, until Torrey Canyon finally sank.[4] A total of 161 bombs, 16 rockets, 1,500 long tons (1,500 t) of napalm and 44,500 litres (9,800 imp gal) of kerosene were used.[1]

Attempts to contain the oil using foam-filled containment booms were largely unsuccessful, due to the booms' fragility in high seas.


When the oil reached Guernsey seven days after the grounding, authorities scooped up the oil into sewage tankers and siphoned it off into a disused quarry in the northeast of the island. Some time later, micro-organisms were introduced to see if they could break the oil down into carbon dioxide and water.[5] This was a limited success, so in 2010, a bio-remediation process was initiated to speed up the process.[6]


An inquiry in Liberia, where the ship was registered, found Shipmaster Pastrengo Rugiati was to blame, because he took a shortcut to save time to get to Milford Haven. Additionally a design fault meant that the helmsman was unaware that the steering selector switch had been accidentally left on autopilot and hence was unable to carry out a timely turn to go through the shipping channel.[7]

The wreck lies at a depth of 30 metres (98 ft).


  1. Look and Learn, no.858, 24 June 1978, p.2
  2. "The Torrey Canyon's last voyage". Loughborough University. Archived from the original on 5 July 2009. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  3. Mounter, Julian (29 March 1967). "Night Strafe On Blazing Tanker Tide puts out fire". The Times (56901). p. 1.
  4. "On This Day 29 March 1967: Bombs rain down on Torrey Canyon". BBC News. 2008. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  5. Bell, Bethan; Cacciottolo, Mario (17 March 2017). "Torrey Canyon oil spill: The day the sea turned black". BBC News. Retrieved 17 March 2017.
  6. "Torrey Canyon oil in Guernsey quarry 'nearly' removed". BBC News. 17 November 2010. Retrieved 17 March 2017.
  7. Rothbloom, A. Human Error and Marine Safety (pdf).
  8. Simmons, Sylvie (2 February 2001). "The eyes have it". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 13 November 2013.

This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.