On the night of November 26, 2004, the 750-foot Cyprus-flagged M/T Athos I struck an uncharted, nine-ton submerged anchor while attempting to berth at the Citgo Asphalt Refinery in Paulsboro, New Jersey. The anchor punctured the vessel’s hull, No. 7 center cargo and port ballast tanks. Within minutes, the tanker lost power and listed approximately eight degrees to the port side. An estimated 263,371 gallons of Bachaquero Venezuelan crude oil was discharged into the Delaware River.
The incident occurred on an incoming tide and within hours, oil was carried about six miles upriver to the Walt Whitman Bridge. The river was closed to commercial shipping traffic for over a week following the spill. The Salem Nuclear Power Plant near the mouth of the river was also shut down for over a week to prevent submerged oil from clogging its water intake system.
Ultimately, oil spread over 115 miles of the Delaware River and its tributaries, impacting approximately 280 miles of shoreline from the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge to the Smyrna River in central Delaware. It is estimated that 11,869 birds were killed, 4,122 acres of benthic habitat were oiled, and $1.3 million was lost in recreational uses such as boating, fishing, and hunting. In 2010, the Trustees received $27.5 million for the restoration of injured natural resources in the Delaware Estuary.