Major Oil Spills in Australia
Era, Port Bonython, South Australia, 30 August 1992
On 30 August 1992 the fuel tank of Era was ruptured by the bow of the tug Turmoil during berthing operations at Port Bonython during high winds. Some 300 tonnes of bunker fuel were released into Spencer Gulf.
Soon after the spill spraying of dispersant commenced. Strong north-westerly winds gusting to 25 knots combined with tide and current and caused the oil to drift eastward. Because of the high winds containment booms were not able to be used. The oil degenerated to an oily sheen. Some of this sheen impacted the mangroves and a number of small creeks to the south-west of Port Pirie.
(South Australian Department of Transport)
In an effort to contain the remaining oil/sheen on the Port Pirie side of the Gulf, containment booms were deployed on the open water but were unsuccessful due to the inclement weather conditions.
Clean up of the mangroves proved to be difficult. No vehicular access was available and small craft could only work in the mangroves when the tide is suitable. The oil remaining in the mangroves was left to degrade naturally. Environmental advice at the time recommended that greater damage to this environment would result in attempting clean up action.
There was a significant loss of birdlife. The numbers affected were about 500 of which 300 required treatment. Species affected were mostly cormorants, pelicans, terns, grebes, herons and ducks. The South Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service and volunteer groups set up a 'bird hospital to treat affected birds.
The South Australian Government was responsible for the response and clean up operation. Assistance was provided by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) and the Australian Marine Oil Spill Centre (AMOSC).