1980 - Finneagle

Year 1980
Vessel Finneagle
Location Off Orkney Islands, UK
Cargo type Package
Chemicals TRIMETHYL PHOSPHITE

Summary

On October 1, 1980, en route from New Orleans to Valhamm, Sweden, the Swedish ro-ro ship Finneagle encountered bad weather 30 nautical miles west of the Orkney Islands, U.K. in the North Sea (see Figure 1). Her cargo started to shift, including a tank container containing trimethyl phosphite on the tween deck. The tank container was secured by the crew but this became loose again. Leakage of a rubber solution made the deck slippery which, together with the poor securing, made the arrangement unstable. The trimethyl phosphite container slid repeatedly, striking a refrigerated trailer nearby. The tank container was eventually punctured and started to leak. The spilled liquid reacted with leaking acid from the damaged batteries of the refrigerated trailer.

Trimethyl phosphite is a colourless flammable liquid with a strong foul odour. It has a low flash point of about 37.5ºC. It is heavier than water and insoluble in water. Its vapours are heavier than air. It may be ignited by heat, sparks or flames and toxic fumes of POx are formed in the process. In fighting a fire involving trimethyl phosphite, foam is recommended and if water is to be used, it should be applied in flooding quantities as a fog whilst solid streams of water may spread the fire. Trimethyl phosphite reacts violently with acids producing heat.

The spilled liquid reacted with leaking acid from the damaged batteries of the refrigerated trailer, producing heat which contributed to the production of flammable vapours that ignited, probably by sparks from the damaged batteries (see Figure 2). A fire broke out, followed soon by an explosion.

Narrative

On October 1, 1980, en route from New Orleans to Valhamm, Sweden, the Swedish ro-ro ship Finneagle encountered bad weather 30 nautical miles west of the Orkney Islands, U.K. in the North Sea (see Figure 1). Her cargo started to shift, including a tank container containing trimethyl phosphite on the tween deck. The tank container was secured by the crew but this became loose again. Leakage of a rubber solution made the deck slippery which, together with the poor securing, made the arrangement unstable. The trimethyl phosphite container slid repeatedly, striking a refrigerated trailer nearby. The tank container was eventually punctured and started to leak. The spilled liquid reacted with leaking acid from the damaged batteries of the refrigerated trailer.

Trimethyl phosphite is a colourless flammable liquid with a strong foul odour. It has a low flash point of about 37.5ºC. It is heavier than water and insoluble in water. Its vapours are heavier than air. It may be ignited by heat, sparks or flames and toxic fumes of POx are formed in the process. In fighting a fire involving trimethyl phosphite, foam is recommended and if water is to be used, it should be applied in flooding quantities as a fog whilst solid streams of water may spread the fire. Trimethyl phosphite reacts violently with acids producing heat.

The spilled liquid reacted with leaking acid from the damaged batteries of the refrigerated trailer, producing heat which contributed to the production of flammable vapours that ignited, probably by sparks from the damaged batteries (see Figure 2). A fire broke out, followed soon by an explosion.

Resume

The fire increased in its intensity. The vessel's sprinkler system functioned unsatisfactorily delivering about 300 tons of water but, due to pressure failure, stopped functioning after one hour. Working under difficult conditions, the crew tried to improve the lashing and, wearing breathing apparatus, tried to fight the fire in the smoked-filled engine room. A distress call was sent out. The vessel's lifeboats and life rafts could not be launched due to the heavy seas. The fire, heat and irritating and poisonous gases developed to such an extent that the ship had to be abandoned. The first two helicopters which arrived could not start rescue operations due to the bad weather, but a third helicopter which arrived later was able to send down a safety line and rescued all 22 persons on board, among them the wife of a crew member and two small children. During the operation, the master steered the vessel manually and was able to hold it against the wind and rough seas whilst the rescue operation was performed by the British rescue services in darkness and adverse weather conditions. Both these factors contributed to the success of the rescue operations. Still burning, the ship was towed to Lerwick in the Shetland Islands. On October 4, the main fires had been extinguished.

last modified 2020-12-09T12:11:35+00:00