Infographic: ATHOS 1 oil spill in Delaware River


On the 26 Nov. 2004, there was an oil spill that you've probably never heard of.

Just outside of Philadelphia on November 26, 2004, an oil tanker called the Athos I unknowingly ripped its hull on an 18,000 pound anchor hidden on the river bottom. This released more than 263,000 gallons of heavy oil into an industrialized stretch of the Delaware River. The single bottom tanker was holed in her Number 7 port ballast tank and Number 7 center cargo tank, resulting in a spill of 265,000 gallons of heavy crude oil. Some 280 miles of river shoreline were affected, including 70 miles heavily to moderately oiled – resulting in cleanup costs, natural resources and third party claims totaling to $300 million.

The underwater Anchor responsible for the incident

Update dated 29 March 2018:

The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled on the claims of various parties concerning financial responsibility of the spill of heavy oil from the tanker Athos I into the Delaware River on 26 November 2004. Damages totaled $143 million. Tanker owner Frescati Shipping initially paid the costs, but was reimbursed in the amount of $88 million by the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (OSLTF) established by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90). The tanker owner and the United States then sought recovery from the companies that had contracted for the purchase of the heavy oil and designated the port of delivery. The appellate court affirmed the district court’s judgment in favor of the tanker owner on the breach of contract claim and the prejudgment interest award. It vacated the district court’s judgment in favor of the tanker owner on the negligence claim. The court affirmed the district court’s judgment in favor of the United States on the subrogated breach of contract claim, but reversed and remanded for further proceedings in light of the court’s equitable recoupment ruling for the purpose of recalculating damages and prejudgment interest.

Take a quick look at the aftermath of this little-known oil spill, which ultimately fostered several significant changes to address future oil spill accidents across USA.




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  1. I was working for Noble Denton in Houston Texas at the time as President of Martech a tanker inspection company. I knew the Athos 1 she was a double side single bottom tanker. I belief she was berth at Paulsboro terminal in the Delaware when the incident occurred. I was elected to be an expert witness, however as the enquiry was in Philadelphia and I was in Houston and fully occupied with my company I handed the case over to Capt. Andy Brooking in our UK office.