Tanker oil spill in the Bohai bay near Tianjin, China

Collision of two vessels caused a massive oil spill in the Bohai sea leading to heavy pollution of the maritime ecological system. The following lawsuit served as a landmark for similar cases in China.


A collision in the early morning hours of November 23rd 2002 between the "Tasman Sea", a Maltese oil tanker laden with 81,000 tons of crude oil and a Chinese vessel, the "Shunkai No.1" triggered a massive oil spill. The spill caused serious pollution in the waters off the port of Tianjin and part of the bay area near the city of Tangshan, leaving behind a heavily polluted maritime ecological system [1].  According to official reports, the oil spill measured 2.5 nautical miles in length and 1.4 nautical miles in width in the Bohai Sea. [2]

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Basic Data
NameTanker oil spill in the Bohai bay near Tianjin, China
SiteSea area of Dagukou
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Aquaculture and fisheries
Specific CommoditiesCrude oil
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe Maltese-registered "Tasman Sea" was loaded with 81,398 tons of crude oil for China International United Petroleum & Chemicals Co., Ltd. (UNIPEC). Around 160 tons of crude oil were leaking into the waters. The area affected by the oil spill was 359.6 km².
Level of Investment (in USD)unknown
Type of PopulationUnknown
Potential Affected Populationunknown
Start Date30/11/2002
Company Names or State EnterprisesInfinity Shipping Corporation from Malta - Polluter
London Protection and Indemnity Club from United Kingdom - Insurer
Relevant government actors-Tianjin Maritime Court (天津海事法院)

-Tianjin High People's Court (天津高级人民法院)

-Tianjin Maritime Bureau (天津海事局)

-State Oceanic Administration (SOA) (国家海洋局)
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingLocal government/political parties
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Oil spills, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Food insecurity (crop damage), Waste overflow
Otherlosses of maritime ecological functions
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Other socio-economic impacts
Other cost of restoration of maritime sediment, and the restoration of tidal shoals
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
New legislation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The financial compensation for the affected fishermen cannot be counted as a success, since the final sum of money was only half of the claimed prospect. Yet the case served as a pathfinder for following cases of oil spills and environmental pollution in China. It also prompted further research in the field, prompting the publishing of the "Guidelines for Evaluation of Environmental Losses Due to Maritime Oil Spills".
Sources and Materials

[3] International Maritime Organization (IMO): "International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage (CLC)" (accessed: 02.03.19)
[click to view]


[4] "China And The Environment: The Green Revolution", Sam Geall (Ed); Zed Books, 2013
[click to view]


[1] cnr.cn: "塔斯曼海"油轮溢油污染渤海索赔案判决" (Tasman Sea" Tanker Oil Spill Pollution Bohai Claim) (accessed: 02.03.19)
[click to view]

[2] china.org.cn: "Tanker Collision Forms Bohai Sea Oil Spill" (accessed: 02.03.19)
[click to view]

[5] chinadialogue.net: "Losses at sea" (accessed: 02.03.19)
[click to view]

[6] bjreview.com.cn: "Murky Waters" (accessed: 02.03.19)
[click to view]

[7] chinanews.cn: 天津港海域油轮货轮相撞 原油泄漏渤海遭污(图) "Oil tanker cargo ship collided in Tianjin Port, crude oil leaked into the sea (Pictures)" (accessed: 02.03.19)
[click to view]

Other Documents

[7] The Shunkai No.1 after the collision The Shunkai No. 1 is the Chinese vessel that has been involved in the accident
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorEnvJustice, ICTA-UAB/LUX
Last update11/03/2019