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Significant Incidents

For significant spills, OR&R is responsible for providing scientific support to the federal on-scene coordinator overseeing the response. Under the National Contingency Plan and the National Response Plan, OR&R works with the U.S. Coast Guard, which is the FOSC for marine spills while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency assumes this responsibility for inland spills. OR&R has responded to thousands of spills over the years. In addition to emergency response to incidents, OR&R assesses damage to and restores plants, animals, and environments after a marine or coastal spill. Check out for a comprehensive list of spills and other incidents which OR&R responds to.

On June 21, 2012, the 202-foot M/V Jireh ran aground on Mona Island, a small, uninhabited island 41 miles west of Puerto Rico. NOAA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and U.S. Coast Guard focused on recovering the approximately 2,000 gallons of fuel oil on board the freighter to minimize the environmental impact, particularly to corals.

On February 4, 1999, the 639-foot M/V New Carissa went hard aground in heavy seas about 150 yards off a stretch of remote beach three miles north of Coos Bay, Oregon.

On January 15, 2022, a large discharge of crude oil occurred north of Lima, Peru, during the transfer between Italian crude oil tanker Mare Doricum and the Repsol-operated submarine terminal at the La Pampilla refinery. The tanker and refinery released an estimated 11,900 barrels (595,000 gallons) of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean, affecting 24 beaches, including five natural reserve areas, and impacting commercial fisheries, artisanal fisheries, and the local tourism industry.

In late October 2012, Post Tropical Cyclone Sandy's extreme weather conditions spread oil, hazardous materials, and debris across waterways and industrial port areas along the Mid Atlantic.

Hurricane Ivan hit the Gulf Coast as a Category 3 hurricane on September 16, 2004, after passing through and causing significant damage to the offshore oil industry. Satellite imagery revealed ocean surface anomalies ranging up to 30 miles in length, originating from the position of Taylor Energy’s MC20 oil production platform, located 10 miles off the coast of Louisiana near the mouth of the Mississippi River. Over 450 feet tall, the platform stood on the seafloor and gathered oil from 28 oil wells. 

On March 11, 2011, the largest earthquake in Japanese history struck the northeast region of the island nation. The magnitude 9 earthquake created a tsunami that hit Japan and radiated out into the Pacific, threatening countless Pacific Islands and the entire west coast of the U.S.

Upon reports of the earthquake and ensuing tsunami, the Emergency Response Division (ERD) of NOAA OR&R quickly began relaying critical tsunami predictions to Coast Guard Sectors in Hawaii (Honolulu, Hilo), Guam, California (La Jolla, San Francisco, Crescent City), and Washington State (La Push).

On July 23, 2006, the 654-foot container ship Cougar Ace was transporting over 4,800 automobiles from Japan to Vancouver, Canada. For an unknown reason, it began to take on water about 245 nautical miles southwest of Atka, Alaska, and started to list to its port side. A sheen was reported about two miles in length, emanating from the vessel. The crew of 23 was rescued by U.S. Coast Guard and National Guard helicopters.

On March 21, 2022, the 83-foot tug Western Mariner experienced a steering failure in Neva Strait, north of Sitka Sound, Alaska, and was forced aground after contact with the 286-foot containerized freight barge it was towing. The barge was undamaged and remained afloat. The tug, containing 45,000 gallons of diesel, began leaking upon running aground.

On August 29, 2005, Category 3 Hurricane Katrina made landfall in southeast Louisiana and then continued moving northeast, impacting southern Mississippi and Alabama. Hurricane Katrina left a wake of storm damage that will never be forgotten, as it quickly became one of the five deadliest hurricanes to ever hit the United States. The storm surge produced by Katrina caused the levee system in southeast Louisiana to fail, which led to widespread coastal flooding. By August 31, nearly 80% of New Orleans was underwater.

On July 26, 2009, oil was observed approximately 33 miles offshore and 60 miles southwest of Houma, Louisiana. The oil was subsequently identified as coming from a leak from the Eugene Island Pipeline System. An estimated 63,000 gallons of oil was released.

Pre-approved dispersant was applied to the heaviest concentrations of the spill and a significant amount of skimming was done. In addition to identifying resources at risk, spill specialists from NOAA OR&R provided spill trajectories and coordinated monitoring to ensure the applied dispersant was working effectively.

In the early morning of Dec. 15, 1976, the Liberian tanker Argo Merchant went aground on Fishing Rip (Nantucket Shoals), 29 nautical miles southeast of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts in high winds and ten foot seas.

After Hurricane Isaac's initial landfall the week of August 28, 2012, the U.S. Coast Guard received reports of 158 oil spills and 171 objects possibly containing hazardous materials in the affected areas of Louisiana. The objects included propane tanks and drums with unknown contents, ranging in size from several gallons to 60,000 gallons.

On July 23, 2008, the T/V Tintomara collided with the tug/barge (M/V Mel Oliver and DM932) near downtown New Orleans, Louisiana. The barge was ripped in half and spilled 283,000 gallons of fuel, closing the Mississippi River to shipping for six days.

Over the next several months, spill response specialists from NOAA OR&R supported the incident operations, providing science coordination, trajectory forecasts, and shoreline and cleanup assessments.

On August 13, 2022, the 58-foot Swinomish Tribal fishing vessel Aleutian Isle began taking on water for unknown reasons, and sank 300 yards off Sunset Point on San Juan Island in Washington State.

On October 1, 2021, a mystery oil sheen was observed about three and a half miles off of Huntington Beach, California. The source was later determined to be a leak from the pipeline P00547, associated with the offshore platform “Elly” owned by Beta Offshore, a subsidiary of Amplify Energy. The pipeline may have sustained damage from a ship’s anchor being dragged. 

On September 1, 2008, only three years after Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Gustav made landfall on the Louisiana coast, reaching into Florida with destructive rain bands and tornadoes. The hurricane had especially large impacts in Baton Rouge. 

Only two weeks later, on September 13, 2008, Hurricane Ike made landfall during the early morning hours in the Galveston/Houston area of Texas. 

On September 19, 2022, soon-to-be Hurricane Ian formed as a tropical disturbance several hundred miles east of the Windward Islands in the south Caribbean. It would rapidly strengthen into a catastrophic Category 4 hurricane before it slammed into Florida, making its landfall south of Punta Gorda on September 28, and bringing with it 15 feet of storm surge and over 20 inches of rain. Hurricane Ian caused widespread flooding of homes, washed out critical bridges and roads, and created thousands of pollution threats by scattering and destroying vessels across the southeast Gulf Coast. 

On August 29, 2021, the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Ida made landfall near Port Fourchon, Louisiana as a Category 4 hurricane. With sustained winds of 150 mph at landfall, Ida would become one of the most destructive storms in Louisiana history. The damage from wind and storm surge was catastrophic over southeast Louisiana, especially over Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes.

On January 11, 2010, up to 142,000 gallons of #2 diesel fuel was released from a 4.8 million gallon underground tank at the Adak Petroleum Bulk Fuel facility on Adak Island in the central Aleutian Islands of Alaska. Fuel was being transferred from a tanker at the adjacent loading dock, when the tank was overfilled. The containment sump unit was overwhelmed and the fuel entered Helmet Creek, a salmon creek that flows into the small boat harbor in the Port of Adak. Most of the diesel was confined to the creek, but more than a thousand gallons may have flowed out to Sweeper Cove. 

On November 26, 2004, the 750-foot tanker Athos I, carrying 13 million gallons of crude oil, struck an uncharted submerged anchor while she made her approach to the CITGO Asphalt Refining Facility in the Delaware River outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The ship’s hull was breached and the vessel acquired an eight-degree list, causing the engines to shut down, immobilizing the vessel. The breached hull began releasing more than 263,000 gallons of crude oil into the tidal water of the busy Delaware River shipping route.

On November 7, 2007, heavy fog in San Francisco Bay caused the M/V Cosco Busan to strike a tower of the Bay Bridge. The allision resulted in a 100-foot gash in the hull, which lead to the release of 53,000 gallons of diesel into the Bay. The oil quickly spread to other parts of the Bay and the outer coastline, both north and south, and washed ashore on many miles of sensitive shoreline.

On April 20, 2010, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon Macondo oil well drilling platform tragically killed 11 workers, and started the largest marine oil spill in U.S. history, releasing millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. NOAA was on the scene from the earliest moments of the crisis, bringing more than 25 years of experience protecting and restoring our coasts from oil spills.

On March 24, 1989, the tanker Exxon Valdez grounded on Bligh Reef in Alaska's Prince William Sound, rupturing its hull and spilling nearly 11 million gallons of Prudhoe Bay crude oil into a remote, scenic, and biologically productive body of water.

Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana on August 29, 2005, bringing winds of 140 miles per hour and storm waters that flooded more than 80 percent of New Orleans. Tragically, more than 1,800 people lost their lives and damages across the Gulf Coast topped $108 billion. A few weeks later, Hurricane Rita battered the area on September 24, extending the damage from eastern Texas to western Florida.

On May 19, 2015, NOAA was notified of a 24-inch pipeline rupture that occurred earlier in the day near Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County, California. Of the approximately 100,000 gallons of crude oil released, a reported 21,000 gallons flowed into the Pacific Ocean.

On March 22, 2014, the bulk carrier M/V Summer Wind collided with the oil tank-barge Kirby 27706. The incident occurred in Galveston Bay near Texas City, Texas, and resulted in the barge spilling approximately 168,000 gallons of intermediate fuel oil. During the spill response, NOAA provided scientific support to the U.S.