On July 19, 1979, during a tropical rainstorm, the ship collided with the Aegean Captain, off Trinidad and Tobago, spilling 287,000 metric tonnes of oil consigned to Mobil. The damage incurred from the collision was never completely remedied, and while being towed on August 2, the Atlantic Empress continued to spill an additional 41 million gallons (all together being 276,000 tonnes of crude oil) off Barbados. The Aegean Captain also spilled a large quantity of oil from her No. 1 tank. The Atlantic Empress sank on 3 August in deep water and her remaining cargo solidified. The spill from the two ships fortunately never came ashore.
By comparison, the infamous Exxon Valdez spill ten years later only saw 37,000 metric tonnes of oil released.