Fifty years after the epoch-defining Torrey Canyon disaster, attention has focused on how the first oil tanker spill played out in clear public view shaped a regulatory response that has reverberated ever since.

Dropping napalm from jets in a futile attempt to burn off some of the 120,000 tonnes of Kuwaiti crude that spilled onto the white sands and rocks of the Isles of Scilly off Cornwall, southwest England, in March 1967 may have seemed a smart idea at the time.