The bulk carrier MS Oliva ran aground on 16th March 2011 on Nightingale Island. All the crew were saved, but the wreck became an environmental emergency after it broke up.

The Beginning

MS Oliva ran aground at 04.30 on 16th March 2011 at Spinners Point, the far north-west promontory of Nightingale Island.
Photo from Andy Repetto above shows Spinners point right, Stoltenhoff Island left and the view north-eastwards to Tristan da Cunha Island.
Map of Nightingale Island

MS Oliva runs aground on Nightingale Island

Report 08.00 Wednesday 16th March 2011

At 0700 this morning Tristan received news from the Ovenstones fishing vessel MV Edinburgh that the MS Oliva had run aground on Nightingale Island. All on board are OK but the ship is well and truly stuck at Spinners Point, a rocky promontory on Nightingale's rugged northern coast.

The vessel is a 75,300 tonne bulk carrier (length 225 m, beam 32m) en route from Santos in Brazil to Singapore carrying soya beans. The ship was commissioned in 2009, is registered in Malta, has a call sign 9HA2075 and IMO 9413705.

Concern for Crew

Sean Burns reports that Tristan's main concern is the safety of the crew and it is understood that a voluntary evacuation of ten of the 22 crew on board to MV Edinburgh was taking place this afternoon with the agreement of the masters of both ships. The ship's operators are based in Greece and there is 1 Greek and 21 Filipino crew on board. MV Edinburgh is standing by to assist until the salvage vessel gets here in four to five days time.

Environmental Threat

There is no evidence of any fuel or other pollution, but of course the Tristan community is very concerned about the impact this might have on the environment. The Tristan Government has been in touch with environmental agencies and it is good news that the salvage team includes an environmental adviser. The Government is also concerned about any impact on the fishery but were relieved to hear that the ballast tanks, 4 of which are damaged, were in fact empty. The Tristan Conservation Department is preparing to send over a team to place bait stations in case any rats get ashore although ship's owners have made an assurance that none are on board.

Edited Report from Tristan da Cunha Administrator Sean Burns and Head of Communications Andy Repetto

Update on the collision timing and transfer of crew to MV Edinburgh

Report 19.30 16th March

It is now known that the MS Oliva ran aground at 04.30 this morning. It has been confirmed that the ship cannot free herself and the current assessment is that there is no need to abandon ship, but 12 crew members who asked to be taken off the ship have been transferred to MV Edinburgh which is standing by to assist.

Salvage Operation Update

A salvage tug is leaving Cape Town on Thursday 17th March and should arrive on Monday 21st March. On board will be a salvage team, a naval architect, divers and an environmental adviser.

Tristan Management Team

A team on Tristan is led by Administrator Sean Burns and includes Fisheries Officer James Glass, Search and Rescue Police Inspector Conrad Glass, Conservation Officer Trevor Glass and Head of Communications Andy Repetto. Offers of assistance have been received from environmental groups including MCA, RSPB and ITOPF. The local team is in touch with the ship's owners, operators, the salvors, the fishing company Ovenstone and the ship's insurers. The team has stressed the real concerns they have about the impact any spillage might have on the island's land and marine environment, including its fishery.


Tristan Radio is maintaining a 24 hour watch, and Administrator Sean Burns has asked for volunteers to help Andy Repetto maintain this service. Trevor and his conservation team have prepared themselves to travel over to Nightingale Island as soon as sea conditions allow with the aim of setting bait stations in case rodents come ashore, and to monitor the dynamic situation. Islanders working for the Conservation Department (Simon Glass, Wayne Swain and Matthew Green) are coincidentally already on Nightingale Island and are monitoring the local situation and keeping Conservation Officer Trevor Glass informed of developments.

Edited Report from Administrator Sean Burns

Plans to ensure the safety of remaining crew at first light

Report 02.00 Thursday 17th March

Andy Repetto reports that, as the weather at Spinners Point is worsening, plans are being made for all of the 10 crew remaining on MS Oliva to be taken off to the waiting MV Edinburgh at first light, so effectively abandoning the vessel. 12 crew were transferred to MV Edinburgh on 16th March in what was then described as a voluntary evacuation in reasonable weather conditions.

Weather prevents crew rescue

Report 08.00 Thursday 17th March

Administrator Sean Burns reports that local conditions are still too dangerous to rescue the crew so they remain on board. First signs of oil spillage have appeared this morning.

Photo Report received from Captain Alexander Golubev

Master of the cruise ship MV Prince Albert II

taken by their photographer Kristine Hannon including images taken c.08.30 on Thursday 17th March

Pictures show the stranded ship astride a reef off Nightingale's Spinners Point. Exposed to prevailing north-west swells, waves are already sweeping over the heavily laden ship. Hopefully the vessel will not start to break up before salvors arrive on 21st March.
Stoltenhoff Island is visible behind
MS Oliva in the picture left
Photographs are not to be copied for publication and all rights are reserved

Crew safely aboard MV Edinburgh as MS Oliva is abandoned

Report Thursday 17th March. Updated 16.00 Friday 18th March after further news and pictures of the crew rescue

The first crucial phase of the emergency incident which saw the MS Oliva run aground at 04.30 on 16th March 2011 is now complete as we are delighted to report that the remaining ten crew still on board the stricken 75,300 tonne bulk carrier have been safely transferred to the fishing vessel MV Edinburgh. This exercise was master-minded by MV Edinburgh's Captain Clarence and achieved by staff from the cruise ship MS Prince Albert II who had a major role in this operation. Staff on the Prince Albert's zodiacs were directly involved in taking the crew off the Oliva in dangerous sea conditions and catching the crew as they had to jump off the pilot ladder into the zodiacs below. Thanks are also due to Prince Albert's Captain Alexander Golubev who took responsibility for his staff to conduct the operation resulting in ten crew being transported safely aboard MV Edinburgh for onward passage to Tristan da Cunha. Afterwards the housekeeping department and the able seamen needed to clean the oil covered clothing and zodiacs.

Dramatic Photographs from MV Prince Albert II Photographer Kristine Hannon

showing the cruise ship's zodiacs and crew approaching the listing MS Oliva, approaching the more sheltered starboard side and rescuing the last ten crew members left aboard MS Oliva on 17th March 2011




Photographs are not to be copied for publication and all rights are reserved
Contact for image enquiries

Transfer to Tristan da Cunha

MV Edinburgh then sailed to Tristan da Cunha. Fifteen crew members were brought ashore and are being looked after ashore by Islanders.The remaining crew have remained aboard MV Edinburgh which has returned to Nightingale Island to be able to monitor the stricken vessel and await the arrival of salvors expected Monday 21st March. MV Edinburgh is only equipped to carry 12 passengers so it is very good that at least 15 distressed crew members can enjoy the legendary hospitality of Islanders who have rescued and cared for shipwrecked mariners for nearly two centuries.

Future of MS Oliva

Nevertheless MS Oliva may yet be salvaged and so can't be classed as a 'wreck'. With the crew now safe, attention now centres on the condition of the ship and whether it will remain intact so that salvors can attempt to float if off the reef at Spinners Point before it breaks up.

MS Oliva broke up overnight : Grave Environmental concerns

Report from Administrator Sean Burns 09.00 Friday 18th March

MS Oliva broke her back in the force of a relentless swell at about 02.30 today and the wreck of the ship's superstructure is now breaking up. Flows of oil are all around Nightingale's coast. The onshore Tristan Conservation Team of Simon Glass, Wayne Swain and Matthew Green are busy assessing damage to Nightingale's seabirds. This late summer season is crucial as all adults are flying daily from their nests to catch fish, squid etc to feed their rapidly maturing chicks. The island has no land mammals and is regarded as one of the world's most important wildlife habitats. The World Heritage Sites of Inaccessible and Gough Island may also be at risk from oil pollution.

Assessment Team

MV Edinburgh will this morning take on board an emergency assessment team which will travel to Nightingale to assess the situation for themselves. We expect a report and photographs later today. The team will be led by Administrator Sean Burns with Chief islander Ian Lavarello and include Fisheries Officer James Glass, Search and Rescue Police Inspector Conrad Glass, Conservation Officer Trevor Glass.

Salvage Tug's long journey

Meanwhile the salvage tug John Ross left Cape Town on 17th March with a salvage team, a naval architect, divers and an environmental advisor and equipment to treat oiled birds aboard. The ship should arrive on Monday 21st March.

Salvage Tug Halfway to Nightingale

Second vessel being chartered for the clean up

Report Saturday 19th March

The salvage tug known by the name 'John Ross' left South Africa on Thursday 17th March and is now half way through its journey to Nightingale Island to the stricken vessel MS Oliva. Though widely known as John Ross since its 1976 construction in Durban, it has been renamed Smit Amandla and is operated by Smit Dudula Marine in South Africa. Capable of 21 knots, the 2918 tonne vessel is one of the most experienced vessels of its kind and is due to reach Nightingale Island at 14.00 on Monday 21st March. Unfortunately, now MS Oliva is breaking up,the tug's role will not be to pull the MS Oliva off the reef at Spinners Point, re-float her and tow her back to port. We await news on Monday regarding how the tug will remove the remains of MS Oliva, and whether these can be salvaged or consigned to the ocean depths.

A second vessel is being chartered by the owners / their insurers to assist in the clean-up operation. The Environmental Adviser aboard the Smit Amandla may need to make a preliminary assessment before this second vessel sails to ensure correct equipment, materials and staff are on board for this complex operation in the isolated South Atlantic.

Awful Scene around Nightingale Island

Rescue Operation for oil smothered Rockhopper Penguins

Report from Administrator Sean Burns at 10.00

Sean has only just returned to the Tristan da Cunha Settlement having been aboard MV Edinburgh overnight unable to land back at Calshot Harbour with the rest of the Assessment Team yesterday evening.

Sean reports an awful scene around Nightingale Island with oil from the stricken MS Oliva eight miles offshore and more or less around the whole island. The slick ranges from thin films of oil, small balls and larger clumps of tar with the smell of diesel everywhere.

Tristan Conservation Team of Simon Glass, Wayne Swain and Matthew Green are busy doing what they can to clean up Northern Rockhopper Penguins presently coming ashore smothered in oil on Nightingale Island. Penguins have finished their breeding cycle and most adults have also left the island after their annual moulting ashore. So birds would not be expected to be coming ashore at this time of year when it would be usual only to see adults leaving with their new feathers.

Another concern is the impact that the ship's cargo of 60,000 tonnes of whole raw soya beans will have on the fragile local marine environment, especially any long-term effect on the economically valuable fishing industry for crawfish, crayfish or Tristan Rock Lobster (Jasus tristani) which is the mainstay of Tristan da Cunha's economy. The fishing vessel MV Edinburgh is operated by the fishing company Ovenstone which manages with concession on behalf of the Tristan Government - see Fishing Page.

The cruise ship Prince Albert II is anchored at Tristan today and passengers are coming ashore. So it will be an opportunity to thank the crew who facilitated the rescue of the remaining ten MS Oliva crew members on Thursday 17th just a few hours before the bulk tanker broke up.

Sunday 20th March - Pictures from Administrator Sean Burns taken on 18th March

Pictures below taken by Sean from aboard MV Edinburgh on Friday 18th March show the two main sections of MS Oliva: the stern section capsized and showing the exposed black hull: the main forward cargo hold section lying east of Spinners Point close to where it went aground.

Images from Sean Burns
18th March 2011

Above: Three views of the stricken stern end of MS Oliva capsized south of Spinners Point

Left and Right: Two views of the larger bow and main cargo holds east of Spinners Point

Oil present on the sea's surface - see Sean's report above
Images below from Trevor Glass show distressed Northern Rockhopper Penguins ashore at Nightingale Island.
There are an estimated 25,000 pairs of rockhoppers in two colonies on Nightingale Island and 70,000 pairs on Alex or Middle Island, one of two main islets off the main Nightingale Island.

Pollution around Inaccessible Island

Sunday 20th March 14.00 Report from Administrator Sean Burns

A Conservation Team conducting a survey around Inaccessible Island today have reported that signs of oil pollution are apparent around this World Heritage Site.

Images received Sunday 20th March from the Tristan Conservation Team of Simon Glass, Wayne Swain and Matthew Green

Top left: MV Edinburgh (1085 tonnes & 62.5m long) and the grounded MS Oliva (75,300t & 225m long) on Spinners Point on 16th March before the ship was driven further onto the reef.

The team also took these awful images of distressed Northern Rockhopper Penguins ashore on Nightingale Island.

Tug arriving today

Monday 21st March at 09.00

The heavy duty salvage tug Smit Amandla will arrive later today. It is thought there will be little to salvage and that the task now is essentially a clean-up operation. It is understood the total load of unprocessed whole soya beans was 65,266 tonnes and the vessel was carrying about 1500 tonnes of fuel oil. Crucially the tug will assess how much soya and oil remains aboard and what effect any spill has had / will have on the fragile marine ecosystem and the valuable local fishing industry

On board the tug is an environmental specialist, Estelle van der Merwe, who was in charge of SANCCOB at the time of the Treasure oil spill, which affected South African seabirds, and will advise the Nightingale operation. SANCCOB (The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds) is an internationally recognised leader in seabird rehabilitation.