Rotterdam spill, June 2018


C. 1,000 swans estimated to be oiled 

On June 23rd 2018, the Norwegian owned tanker 'Bow Jubail' collided  with a jetty, in the port of Rotterdam and spilled over 200 tonnes of fuel oil, resulting in the contamination of over 1,000 mute swans plus a small amount of cormorants and ducks. 

Local NGO Son-response(  and Sea Alarm (  were notified and immediately began working with the Rijkswaterstaat (local authority) to plan for a wildlife response. Rijkswaterstaat quickly gave permission to both organisations to invite both local and international experts to help develop a suitable centre and run a response.  Experts from ProBird from Germany, ELF from Estonia, Focus Wildlife from the US, Vogelopvangcentrum from Ostend in Belgium, OWRN from Ireland,  Aiuka from  Brazil, WWF from Finland and local NGO's. were mobilised and work began in ernest. 

In 2015 - 2016 Sea Alarm facilitated the EUROWA project  whose aim was to develop a module for oiled wildlife response. The project brought together an  European team of  experts  capable of providing a Tier-3 response. In addition equipment has been stockpiled and stored to be made available if required. The  project  developed  SOP's (standard operating procedures)  training and exercise packages. all leading to accreditation of  personnel. The project was  co-financed by the European Commission under the Civil Protection Instrument,

The EUROWA project members  were called in and  developed a facility to rehabilitate the casualties  and within 6 days a full facility was in place in Maeslantkering, near Rotterdam. The wildlife hospital was housed in a giant tent and considering the heat wave the need for heated drying pens was reduced as the sun did the job most of the time! Two pens were set up indoors for the cooler/wet days and did get used briefly.  Washing was able to begin in ernest with holding pens built for both the oiled and cleaned swans. Cognisant of the extreme stress that captured wild animals endure in this situation, the  birds were rested, rehydrated and blood tested before washing in an effort to maximise  their ability to survive the stress of both the injury from oil followed by capture and to support them throughout  the rehabilitation process.  Many hiccups along the way were ironed out and pools were developed to allow the cleaned birds to recondition their feathers before release back to the wild. 

Each bird took in the region of one hour to wash and rinse with some of the heavily oiled birds taking up to three hours to remove the contaminants and rinse back to 'dry'.  

By Monday 16th  July, all the swans were washed and by Wednesday July 18th c.200  birds were released after being ringed and blood tested. Many of the birds are in moult and likely therefore to remain in the area of release which is deemed to be safe in terms of re-contamination as the harbour area still poses a threat while clean up continues.  The remaining birds will spend time on the pre-release pools until their plumage is found to be waterproof,  final blood checks and banding will be completed and the birds will then be returned to the wild.

Work continues to maintain the remaining swans in tip top condition until release after which the facility will need to be dismantled. The highly successful operation was a tribute to the work invested in the EUROWA project which provided many of the tools that assisted the response.  Oiled wildlife incidents are tragedies that everyone would prefer did not happen. However with an efficient response as provided by the EUROWA team,   hope  was given that those animals affected by the spill could be helped and the local community could be  supported through this tragedy  and assisted by providing a fast, efficient and compassionate framework to build a response. 

Check out the photos below or click on the link to watch a video to get a taste of the response.