On July 27, 2003, the 237 meter long, 87,584 dwt oil tanker Tasman Spirit ran aground near Karachi, Pakistan. The Tasman Spirit was en route to Karachi with 67,535 tons of light crude oil for delivery to the Pakistan Refinery Limited in Karachi. The single-hulled tanker had a pilot on board and was heading into port during the ebb tide. While rounding the bend to get to the inner channel, the vessel got too close to the starboard edge of the channel where it grounded onto a shoal. The tanker was hard aground in the channel and was unable to refloat itself.
Several attempts to refloat the Tasman Spirit by tugs had failed. For two weeks the Tasman Spirit remained aground when cracks appeared in the hull on August 13. Lightering operations had been able to pump out some 20,000 tons of oil from one of the tanks before weather conditions halted operations. However, one of the other tanks on the Tasman Spirit broke open releasing some 12,000 tons of oil. The tanker continued to break apart and broke-in-two.
By August 18, a total of 27,000 tons of oil had been released into the sea. Authorities had attempted to contain the pollution. Floating booms had been placed around the vessel and aerial spraying of dispersants were used to break up the oil slick. However, the pollution was able to be washed ashore and would spread to cover some 14 kilometres of shoreline around Karachi including areas around the harbor and mangrove swamps.
There would be multiple small releases of crude oil through the month of August and September. Authorities used various techniques to contain the oil and were eventually able to stop the pollution. Clean up operations were carried out using various methods. Their efforts was able to collect some 2,500 tons of polluted material and sand off the beach. Some pollution was buried deep in certain areas and was left in place. Some 40,000 tons of oil was able to be recovered or removed.
Pakistan authorities sought out compensation from the environmental damage. Since Pakistan was not part of the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds, it was limited to seek damages from the vessel’s owners. With some outside advice, Pakistan claimed some 1 billion dollars (US) in damages and detained seven of the crew of the Tasman Spirit. The crew would remain in jail for nine months until a compensation agreement was reached between government and owner representatives. The amount of compensation awarded was not released.