Atlantic Empress and Aegean Captain

Starting Date 
Thursday, July 19, 1979
10 miles off Tobago (Caribbean Sea)
Estimated Spillage 
287,000 tons (2,105,000 barrels)

Two VLCCs (Very Large Crude Carriers), The Atlantic Empress (Greek owned, carrying Mobil oil from the Persian Gulf) and the Aegean Captain, collided during a tropical rainstorm. The Aegean Captain was towed to dock, spilling small quantities of oil, which was sprayed with dispersant by a tug boat. The Atlantic Empress was towed towards open sea while surrounding vessels hosed the fire. A burning oil slick followed. Firefighting and dispersant application were used. Several explosions shook the Atlantic Empress 4-5 days after the collision, and another 10 days after, enlarging the fire. The ship was consumed by flame and burning oil slick and sank after 15 days.

Clean-up Efforts 

Dispersants were sprayed by three planes and four boats on the small amounts of oil floating in the Tobago channel.


26 (Atlantic Empress) and 1 (Aegean Captain) sailors were killed (some jumping into the flames).

There was very minor shore pollution. All of the oil disappeared from surveillance by tug boats by August 9. The amount of oil burned and dispersed is unknown.