On the morning of June 7, 1990, the 811-foot Hong Kong-flagged B.T. Nautilus ran aground in Kill Van Kull while attempting to berth at the Coastal New York Marine Terminal in Bayonne, New Jersey. One of the starboard cargo tanks ruptured and discharged approximately 267,000 gallons of No. 6 fuel oil into the waterway. By the end of the day, shoreline impacts were observed on both sides of the Kill Van Kull, and tar balls were observed in Upper and Lower New York Bay.
Approximately 40,000 feet of boom, 77 work boats, and over 300 personnel were deployed for the cleanup. On June 12, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) performed several trawls in the Kill Van Kull. It was found that no oil had reached the bottom and benthic organisms, including blue crabs, horseshoe crabs, and summer flounder, appeared to be in good health. By June 15, tar balls were found along the beaches at Coney Island and Breezy Point, New York, and as far south as Harvey Cedars on Long Beach Island, NJ. Ultimately, more than 200 miles of shoreline in New York (as far east as Fire Island on Long Island's South Shore) and New Jersey (as far south as Cape May) were impacted. The oil spill occurred during the peak of the piping plover nesting season, resulting in 27 adults and two eggs becoming oiled.
A 1994 settlement with the owners of the vessel, Nautilus Motor Tanker Co., Ltd., provided $3.3 million for the restoration of injured natural resources. Due to the overlap in areas impacted, the B.T. Nautilus and Exxon Bayway oil spill cases were handled by the same trustee council: the NY/NJ Harbor Oil Spill Restoration Committee. Using B.T. Nautilus funds, the committee completed five-year piping plover management activities along nesting beaches in New Jersey and New York, salt marsh restoration in Brooklyn, land acquisition on Staten Island, salt marsh restoration at Lincoln Park West in Jersey City, and construction on an interpretive center at Island Beach State Park in NJ.