1989 - Comodal I

Year 1989
Vessel Comodal I
Location Off Argentian Coast
Cargo type Package
Chemicals SODIUM CYANIDE solid

Summary

On 27 August 1989, the Brazilian registered ro-ro ship Comodal I, sailing from the port of Santos (Brazil) bound for Iquique (Chile), had to enter the port of Mar del Plata (Argentina) due to a problem with cargo stowage.

Among the cargo being carried by this ship were eight containers containing 1,920 steel drums of sodium cyanide, in briquettes (UN No. 1689, class 6.1, poison). On contact with water or humid air, as well as with acids or weak alkalis, sodium cyanide may produce poisonous and flammable hydrogen cyanide gas. It also reacts violently with nitrates, nitrites and other oxidizing agents and chlorates.

As a result of the prevailing unfavourable weather conditions, several of the containers turned over and lost their original stowage position. Two of the containers which were stowed on the upper part suffered the greatest damage and one of them impacted on the unloading door of the ship producing deformations in the structure of the container and a break in the door causing an ingress of water in the hold.

The ship had been due to enter Puerto Argentino and informed the Argentine Coast Guard of the situation. The Coast Guard, at the request of the ship's agent in the country, detailed a dangerous goods control team to sort out the damaged goods and stow them correctly.

Narrative

On 27 August 1989, the Brazilian registered ro-ro ship Comodal I, sailing from the port of Santos (Brazil) bound for Iquique (Chile), had to enter the port of Mar del Plata (Argentina) due to a problem with cargo stowage.

Among the cargo being carried by this ship were eight containers containing 1,920 steel drums of sodium cyanide, in briquettes (UN No. 1689, class 6.1, poison). On contact with water or humid air, as well as with acids or weak alkalis, sodium cyanide may produce poisonous and flammable hydrogen cyanide gas. It also reacts violently with nitrates, nitrites and other oxidizing agents and chlorates.

As a result of the prevailing unfavourable weather conditions, several of the containers turned over and lost their original stowage position. Two of the containers which were stowed on the upper part suffered the greatest damage and one of them impacted on the unloading door of the ship producing deformations in the structure of the container and a break in the door causing an ingress of water in the hold.

The ship had been due to enter Puerto Argentino and informed the Argentine Coast Guard of the situation. The Coast Guard, at the request of the ship's agent in the country, detailed a dangerous goods control team to sort out the damaged goods and stow them correctly.

Resume

The team arrived at the ship and proceeded to survey the situation in the hold and to check the extent of the damage to the containers. The containers had side wall deformations and the container which had impacted against the door also had deformations at its front end and to its upper left corner. For this reason it was not opened since, due to the damaged doors, it would not have been closed, once opened.

The technical personnel of the Coast Guard therefore decided to open the other container to examine the state of the cargo, since the impact had caused similar deformations. It would also provide a reliable picture of the extent of damage to the cargo in the other container and its door could be opened and closed.

The goods were found to be packed in polyethylene bags which had been placed in hermetically sealed metal drums in accordance with the IMDG Code. However, these had been badly packed since there were void spaces in the container which had not been filled with any kind of shock-absorbing packing material or dunnage. The drums had sustained various degrees of damage. The cargo was restowed and secured within the container.

The post-accident analysis showed that the roll-on roll-off ship Comodal I had put to sea with either the bow door not tightly secured or not providing adequate watertight integrity since the equipment required for this purpose was in poor condition or missing.

Although the containers and packagings were correctly labelled, the corresponding stowage certificates were not carried on board. A combination of bad weather and void spaces in the container caused the drums to shift to one side in the container. This resulted in an uneven distribution of weight in the containers, causing the container to topple over.

The defective watertight integrity of the door, together with the wave action on the ship, caused an excessive amount of water to enter from around the edge of the door; at times this reached a depth of approximately 1.20m above the main deck. The movement of this mass of water over the starboard ramp and through the scuppers towards the lower deck, where the water reached a depth of approximately 1.6m, created a large free water surface which, given the large dimensions of the holds, might have caused the ship to capsize.

It must also be noted that the possible consequences described would have been still more serious if the sodium cyanide had come into contact with water since this would have resulted in the dangerous gases being evolved with fatal consequences for the crew.

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