Barge North Cape Heating Oil Spill

State TrusteeState of Rhode Island
Federal TrusteeDepartment of Commerce
AO Bureau

Also Known As

Incident Type



Rhode Island

Case Status



Block Island Sound



Contaminants of Concern Include


Affected DOI Resources Include

Migratory Birds, Anadromous Fish, Threatened and Endangered Species

Case Description

At approximately 6:00 p.m. on Friday, January 19, 1996, the tank barge North Cape, carrying 94,000 barrels (3.9 million gallons) of two blends of No. 2 home heating oil, struck ground off Moonstone Beach in South Kingstown, Rhode Island and began to leak oil into the surrounding water. Winds reaching 50 knots formed large, breaking waves that dispersed the oil. These waves, combined with shallow waters at the site of the grounding dispersed oil throughout the water column and into contact with bottom sediments. Oil skimming and booming operations began on Saturday, January 20 in an effort to control surface oil sheens, remove oil from the water column and protect sensitive offshore and salt pond ecosystems. In total, an estimated 828,000 gallons of the two blends of No. 2 fuel oil were released into the coastal and offshore environments before the North Cape was refloated and moved to Newport, Rhode Island on Friday, January 26, one week after the grounding.

Emergency response teams reported preliminary indications of biological injury from the combined effects of the severe weather and spill. Nearly 2.9 million dead and moribund lobsters were removed from southern Rhode Island beaches following the spill. These stranded lobsters represent a fraction of the actual mortality throughout the entire marine environment. As a result of public health concerns associated with consumption of potentially contaminated lobsters, areas of Block Island Sound remained closed to lobster harvesting for five months following the spill. In the nineteen days following the spill, 405 oiled birds (of which only thirteen survived) were recovered along with large numbers of dead surf clams, crabs, and fish. In addition, United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) staff surveying Cards Pond reported a large mortality of amphipods, small crustaceans that represent a critical component of coastal food webs.

Credit: NOAA

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 Document TypeDocument NameDocument Date
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Data pager
Page size:
 23 items in 2 pages


 Factsheet Fact Sheet 2005 10/01/2005
 Factsheet Fact Sheet 2006 07/01/2006
 Factsheet Fact Sheet 2009 09/01/2009
 Factsheet Fact Sheet Birds 07/01/2006
 Factsheet Fact Sheet Fish  


 MOA/MOU Trustees Agreement 10/10/1996
 MOA/MOU Trustees Agreement (amended) 02/18/1997

Restoration (Showing 13 of 14 items. Group continues on the next page.)

 Restoration Monitoring Report Annual Report Piping Plover 2006  
 Restoration Monitoring Report Annual Report Piping Plover 2008  
 Restoration Monitoring Report Annual Report Shellfish 2005 03/01/2006
 Restoration Monitoring Report Annual Report Shellfish 2006 03/01/2007
 Restoration Monitoring Report Annual Report Shellfish 2007 05/01/2008
 Restoration Monitoring Report Annual Report Shellfish 2008  
 Restoration Monitoring Report Annual Report Shellfish Executive Summary 2004  
 Restoration Plan Draft Shellfish Restoration Plan 05/01/2002
 Restoration Monitoring Report Final Report Common Eider  
 Restoration Monitoring Report Final Report Lobster 01/01/2009
 Restoration Monitoring Report Final Report Loons Downeast 04/01/2009
 Restoration Monitoring Report Final Report Loons Pingree 03/04/2005
 Restoration Monitoring Report Final Report Loons West Branch 05/01/2007

No publications have been entered for this case.

Map View

Case Contact

Southern New England Estuary Project

Charlestown, RI | (401) 364-9124

Case Trustees

AO Bureau
Federal TrusteeDepartment of Commerce
State TrusteeState of Rhode Island

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