August 2003 - Karachi oil spill, Pakistan

28 July 2003: stricken tanker, Tasman Spirit, spills 28,000 tons of crude oil into the sea off the Karachi coast

Regular updates will no longer be posted to this crisis site. We will report major news & developments, but for on-going information on the clean-up operations and environmental impacts please visit:

 WWF-Pakistan's website

Update 2 September 2003
Pakistan seeks oil spill damages
Pakistan is demanding $1bn in compensation from the owners of a stricken Greek-registered tanker.

The authorities will also fine the owners to help pay for the clean-up, Pakistani Communication Minister Ahmed Ali said on Monday.

"Some 28,000 tons of crude oil spilled in our sea polluting our port, outer port and beaches," Mr Ali said.

More on the clean-up efforts...
Latest on people affected...
Latest on species affected...
Pictures: BBC World | WWF Pakistan

Update 29th August 2003: The rear section of the grounded tanker Tasman Spirit has developed a five degree tilt which is alarming as it will lead to further oil spill.

Update 25 August 2003: Pumping of the Tasman Spirit's remaining oil stopped...and resumed.

Update 20 August 2003: Pumping of the Tasman Spirit's remaining oil is progressing smoothly.

Number of IMO representatives to double in Pakistan
In the wake of the Tasman Spirit disaster and the environmental damage it has caused, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has decided to double the number of its representatives in Pakistan. They will help on issues related to the salvage operations, including recovery of cargo and containment techniques, coordination of clean up operations, damage assessment and preparation of claims.

The Tasman Spirit oil spill considered a major one
According to the International Tankers Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF), the oil spill caused by the breakage of the Tasman Spirit is a major one, as thousands of tonnes have already been spilled. Oil spills are classified in terms of size, according to ITOPF. There are 3 categories:

  • The first category includes oil spills of less than 7 tonnes.
  • The second category includes oil spills from 7 to 700 tonnes.
  • The third category includes oil spills of more than 700 tonnes.
The Karachi Port Trust has fined the owner of the Tasman Spirit for creating pollution. The fine amounts to US$200,000.

Update 19 August 2003: Pumping of the Tasman Spirit's remaining oil has started. More on the clean-up efforts...

Update 18 August 2003: Rough seas on Sunday forced port authorities to delay transfer of about 35,000 tonnes crude oil from the oil tanker, Tasman Spirit, that ran aground and split into two along the Arabian Sea coastline of Karachi.

The Tasman Spirit, a single-hulled tanker carrying 67,000 tonnes of crude oil destined for the Pakistan National Shipping Corporation (PNSC), ran aground near the Karachi port on 27th July.

Three attempts were made to tow it away, but failed. Cracks appeared in the hull on 14th August.

There are four tanks in the Tasman Spirit. One tank contained 20,000 tonnes of oil which have been saved.

The second tank, containing about 12,000 tonnes of oil, burst open through which all its oil leaked into the sea. The remaining tanks contain about 37,000 tonnes of oil and were reported to be intact on 15th August.

The tanker has now cracked into two pieces. The oil spill has spread to the 14 km coastline of the Clifton Beach, Karachi.

According to the major newspapers in the country, the spill could spread to cover the area of Port Qasim and the 40 km long belt of the Karachi coastline if immediate efforts are not made to contain the oil.

The government of Pakistan has declared an emergency situation.
A 200 to 300 metre area around the ship has been prohibited from movement of boats.

The ship is located 1 km from the beach and the wind is moving eastwards towards the Indus Delta. Two main beaches of Karachi, Clifton and Sea View are badly affected, as puddles of oil are clearly visible on the shoreline.

As the ship is very close to the shore, smell of the oil is very strong. There is an element of threat to human life as well, due to the pungent air borne fumes.

More information
People affected
Wildlife affected
Rescue efforts

Contact information
Dr Ejaz Ahmad, Deputy Director General, WWF–Pakistan, tel: +92 021 4544791-92, email:

Amjad Aslam, Head Communications, WWF–Pakistan, tel: +92 042 5862360, 5882069, email:

Oil washing up on the Karachi beaches.
Oil washing up on the Karachi beaches.
© A. Aslam / WWF-Pakistan

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