Environmental Impact of the Selendang Ayu Accident

(from ASMA Report 2009)


On December 8, 2004, the cargo ship M/V Selendang Ayu lost power as it was transiting the North Pacific’s Great Circle Route and eventually came ashore near Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands, where it broke into two sections. Operations to rescue the crew from the Selendang Ayu resulted in loss of life for both rescuers and crew, increasing the adverse effects of this incident. Despite removal and recovery efforts, the ship eventually discharged its cargo of 66 million metric tons of soybeans, an estimated 1.7 million liters of intermediate fuel oil, 55,564 liters of marine diesel and other contaminants into the environment.

For three weeks the weather delayed response to the environmental hazards of the incident. Strong winds, rough seas and the remoteness of the spill stalled the clean-up and search for oiled animals.

To study the impact of the spill on shorebirds, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released 162 bird-size blocks of wood from the grounding site more than a month after the incident. The blocks helped determine where contaminated dead birds might have drifted. The exercise led to the immediate recovery of 29 oiled birds, 19 that were dead or dying and 10 that were recovered and released. During the course of the clean-up, 1,603 bird carcasses and six sea otter carcasses were recovered. Because of the delay in the recovery efforts, it is likely the number of wildlife impacted was greater. By mid-February 2005, 38,000 bags of oily solid waste had been reclaimed. The clean-up effort was ongoing until June 2006, and the long term impacts on local populations are yet to be fully assessed. This information was drawn from a recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report on the incident.


  •  1. Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment Report 2009

Arctic Council, 2009, Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment (AMSA), Arctic Council.©