20 years ago (5 January 1993), the Braer oil tanker crashed onto the rocky shore of Shetland, spilling its contents of 85,000 tonnes of crude oil into the open sea. At the time it was the 11th largest oil spill worldwide.

Reflecting upon these events, Paul Daly, Corporate Accountability Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said:

“As far as oil spills of this scale go, we were pretty lucky. This was due to favorable circumstances that helped with the clean up. Severe storms helped dissipate the oil, which was unusually light and a speedy response from both volunteers and professionals to undertake onshore cleanup work being the main factors. Although it had a devastating impact on the local ecosystem and economy; fishing had to be abandoned as traces of oil were prevalent. Local fish farms had to be destroy as their stocks of fish which were too toxic to be sold.

“In the interim we have not seen significant advances in spill recovery technology or a reduction in spills. The oil industry only aims to meet the minimum safety levels required by law.

“If an oil spill were to occur in the Arctic, the effects of the severe cold weather would have an as yet unknown effect on traditional oil spill response techniques. The type of oil that is expected to be found in the Arctic would be much more difficult to clean up. Cairn Energy needs to accept the risk is too great and pull out of the Arctic before it is too late.

“We need to wean Scotland off its dirty fossil fuel addiction, and move towards cleaner, safer, sustainable forms of energy production. Oil addiction is dangerous enough, without moving to the ends of the Earth and threatening the pristine Arctic environment with the next devastating spill.

“The way things are shaping up in the Arctic we could be looking at the ‘perfect storm’ of oil spills.”


For media enquiries, please contact: Per Fischer, Press Office, Friends of the Earth Scotland t: 0131 243 2715

Notes to Editors

1. Further info about the oil tanker crash:
news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/january/5/newsid_2506000/25062 23.stm

2. Read more about Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Cairn Energy campaign:

3. Scottish government 10 year review:

4. Friends of the Earth Scotland is * Scotland’s leading environmental campaigning organisation * An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland * Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 77 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups – covering every continent.