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Following a collision on 14 December 2002, the Tricolor, a Norwegian car carrier, sank off the coast of Dunkerque, France, in one of the major shipping routes of the North Sea. Within 48 hours of sinking, the Nicola crashed into the wreck. She was, however, pulled clear and appeared to suffer no serious damage. Two weeks later, on 1 January 2003, the Vicky, carrying 70,000 tonnes of highly inflammable gas oil also struck the submerged Tricolor and some of its dangerous cargo was lost.

Although only a relatively small amount of oil was spilled (170 tonnes), the effect on wildlife quickly grew into one of the more serious incidents in Europe for birds. This was primarily because the spill occurred relatively close to the shore, near to an important area for wintering seabirds.

At their request, Sea Alarm assisted the Belgian authorities in their response efforts from January to 27 February 2003. Sea Alarm’s activities included a number of services to the Head of Operations, including: general advice, strategy development, day-to-day management, coordination between parties, link to ITOPF and the P&I Clubs, assistance with financial management, coordination of international assistance, international transportation of birds and animal welfare.

The Tricolor incident demonstrated how a local community can become overwhelmed by an enormous number of oiled birds, following a relatively minor maritime accident (at least in terms of amounts of oil spilt). In the process of evaluating the incident, it became clear that an oiled wildlife plan was needed in Belgium to deal with any future incidents. Sea Alarm was asked to facilitate this process and the plan was signed in May 2005.

For the full report on Sea Alarm’s involvement, please click here.

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