Era, 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, South Australia, during high winds. Approximately 300 tonnes of bunker fuel was released into Spencer Gulf.

Dispersant spraying commenced soon after the spill. Strong north-westerly winds gusting to 25 knots combined with the tide and current, causing the oil to drift eastward. Because of the high winds, containment booms could not 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.

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 can only work in the mangroves when the tide is suitable.

Image of Era oil pollution incident, South Australia

Photo: South Australian Department of Transport


The oil remaining in the mangroves was left to degrade naturally. Environmental advice at the time suggested that attempting clean-up action would result in greater damage to this environment.

There was a significant loss of birdlife. About 500 birds were affected, of which 300 required treatment.

Species affected were mostly:

  • cormorants
  • pelicans
  • terns
  • grebes
  • herons
  • 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 AMSA and the Australian Marine Oil Spill Centre (AMOSC).

Related information

Read about Australia's National Plan for Maritime Environmental Emergencies.

Last updated: 9 November 2020