1979 - Maria Costa

Year 1979
Vessel Maria Costa
Location Off the Azores, Portugal
Cargo type Package
Chemicals ETHOPROPHOS

Summary

On February 23,1979 the U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port of Hampton Roads, Virginia was advised that the Italian container ship Maria Costa had sustained underwater hull damage in rough seas near the Azores and was sailing towards Newport News, Virginia for repairs. The vessel had experienced flooding in No. 3 hold from an unlocated leak. The flooding was affecting its stability. In the hold were twenty-two 20-foot freight containers with general cargo. Also stowed on pallets in the same hold were 65 tons of pesticide Mocap IOG (a Mobil Chemical Company product) packed in 13.5 kgs multi-ply kraft paper bags. The active ingredient (80% by wt) of this Mobil product is the organophosphate insecticide, Ethoprop.

Approximately 2,000 tons of contaminated water were estimated to be in the hold. The flooding had disintegrated the bags, causing the pesticide to be released from the clay backing material onto which it was adsorbed. Due to the possibility of releasing large amounts of pesticide into the water and endangering life and property in Chesapeake Bay, the vessel was denied entry to the Bay until the flooding problem and the potential marine hazard posed by the pesticide was resolved. Following a survey, it was observed that one of the free floating cargo freight containers had punctured the forward bulkhead of the No. 4 starboard deep tank which had been flooded. This tank contained animal fat (tallow), some of which had flowed into No. 3 hold.

Narrative

On February 23,1979 the U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port of Hampton Roads, Virginia was advised that the Italian container ship Maria Costa had sustained underwater hull damage in rough seas near the Azores and was sailing towards Newport News, Virginia for repairs. The vessel had experienced flooding in No. 3 hold from an unlocated leak. The flooding was affecting its stability. In the hold were twenty-two 20-foot freight containers with general cargo. Also stowed on pallets in the same hold were 65 tons of pesticide Mocap IOG (a Mobil Chemical Company product) packed in 13.5 kgs multi-ply kraft paper bags. The active ingredient (80% by wt) of this Mobil product is the organophosphate insecticide, Ethoprop.

Approximately 2,000 tons of contaminated water were estimated to be in the hold. The flooding had disintegrated the bags, causing the pesticide to be released from the clay backing material onto which it was adsorbed. Due to the possibility of releasing large amounts of pesticide into the water and endangering life and property in Chesapeake Bay, the vessel was denied entry to the Bay until the flooding problem and the potential marine hazard posed by the pesticide was resolved. Following a survey, it was observed that one of the free floating cargo freight containers had punctured the forward bulkhead of the No. 4 starboard deep tank which had been flooded. This tank contained animal fat (tallow), some of which had flowed into No. 3 hold.

Resume

The Coast Guard boarded the Maria Costa and it wad determined that the 12 crew members had been exposed to the contaminated water in the flooded hold while they attempted to pump it out. Seven crew members developed red rashes over parts of their bodies, however the symptoms disappeared. No other signs of possible poisoning were observed. Two scientists also boarded the vessel to check samples from No. 4 starboard tank. Before boarding, they had blood samples taken. They spent an hour and a half on the vessel. Upon disembarking, blood analyses were indicative that they had suffered poisoning by the pesticide.

On February 27, a meeting was held between the Captain of the Port, representatives of the container vessel, Mobil Chemical Company, the EPA, the State of Virginia and the Coast Guard Headquarters Staff to discuss the possible hazards to the ships' crew, the environment and the vessels' stability, as well as a basic plan of action to assess the hull condition. Samples of the contaminated hold water were to be taken for subsequent analysis.

A salvage plan was put forward the next day by the representatives of the container vessel which included inspection of the hull, patching the source of leakage and pumping the contaminated water from the vessel. Since the results showed high concentrations of contaminated water (500 ppm) in No. 4 starboard, No. 3 hold and No. 5 starboard, the Maria Costa was ordered to remain underway offshore.

On March 1, divers conducted an underwater hull survey which revealed two horizontal cracks on the port side. The lower crack was about 5 m long and varied in width from a hairline to about 1 cm. It was located 1.2 m above the bilge keel, about 7 m below the water line. The upper crack was 3 m long, approximately the same width as the other and was located about 1/2 m above the lower crack.

Because of the concern of pumping contaminated water into the sea, the EPA revised their earlier decision and recommended that the material be neutralized and if this was not feasible, to dump the material at sea 200 miles offshore. Concerns were raised about the seaworthiness of the vessel to withstand a voyage of 200 miles in open water. Furthermore, the problem with trying to neutralize the pesticide was the fact that some of the chemicals in the seawater would precipitate and act as a buffer at a pH of 10. On the other hand, to appreciably affect the half-life of the pesticide, the pH would have to be between 11 and 12. It was suggested that the contaminated water be offloaded into a chemical barge which would then be dumped in a pre-designated site about 250 miles offshore. The offloading process took place in three operations. However, after the first and second operations, the holds re-flooded and it became apparent that the wooden patches used to plug the cracks were not watertight. These were replaced by a steel patch.

last modified 2020-12-09T12:11:53+00:00