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One of the world's worst oil pollution disasters occurred in March 1978 when the supertanker Amoco Cádiz ran onto rocks off Portsall on the coast of Brittany. The ship was en route from the Persian Gulf to Rotterdam with 230,000 tonnes of crude oil when its steering gear failed in heavy seas. Hundreds of kilometres of French beaches were polluted by the oil after the Amoco Cádiz broke in two. There was unprecedented destruction of marine and bird life, with millions of marine animals and molluscs being washed ashore.

A subsequent inquiry criticised the tanker's captain Pasquale Bardari for his "inexcusable delay" in asking for assistance. The world was shocked over this first mammoth pollution disaster. Nevertheless, oil tanker damages kept on following one another everywhere in the world:

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