1989 - Oostzee

Year 1989
Vessel Oostzee
Location German Bight
Cargo type Package
Chemicals EPICHLOROHYDRIN

Summary

The Dutch cargo ship Oostzee ran into a storm en route from Rotterdam to Leningrad on July 18, 1989. Among her cargo was 975 tons of epichlorohydrin in 3900 drums (250kg/drum) stowed upright without lashings on the surface tweedeck. Filled drums, stowed around empty ones, shifted in the storm and squeezed the empty ones, thus resulting in greater shift and damage.

Epichlorohydrin is a highly toxic and flammable liquid. It may be fatal if absorbed through skin or inhaled. It is corrosive and causes severe eye and skin burns. It is a human carcinogen. Vapours are heavier than air and may travel to a source of ignition and flash back. Combustion may produce irritants and toxic gases, including hydrogen chloride.

Narrative

The Dutch cargo ship Oostzee ran into a storm en route from Rotterdam to Leningrad on July 18, 1989. Among her cargo was 975 tons of epichlorohydrin in 3900 drums (250kg/drum) stowed upright without lashings on the surface tweedeck. Filled drums, stowed around empty ones, shifted in the storm and squeezed the empty ones, thus resulting in greater shift and damage.

Epichlorohydrin is a highly toxic and flammable liquid. It may be fatal if absorbed through skin or inhaled. It is corrosive and causes severe eye and skin burns. It is a human carcinogen. Vapours are heavier than air and may travel to a source of ignition and flash back. Combustion may produce irritants and toxic gases, including hydrogen chloride.

Resume

The vessel was instructed by the German Shipping Administration to anchor at a place close to Cuxhaven. Leaking drums gave rise to a dangerous atmosphere that caused inhalation poisoning among the crew. As a result, all 14 crew members were hospitalized for 10 days. The cargo holds were found to contain a great number of damaged and leaking drums mixed with general cargo and a highly toxic atmosphere. As a first step, part of the spilled epichlorohydrin was pumped out of the hold and transported to a disposal site. The ship was then transferred to a better equipped port in the River Elbe, but for safety reasons was soon moved to a less populated port in the Elbe Estuary. Special attention was firstly given to reduce the risk of explosion, but it was realized that the gas concentrations were far below the flammable limit (percentage concentration levels) but high enough to be toxic (ppm concentration level). The engine room and the cargo holds were ventilated with the object to reduce the concentration of epichlorohydrin vapours to below TLV levels. During this operation, a wide safety zone was established around the vessel (1000m), as well as a restriction to air traffic up to a height of about 600 meters.

Damaged drums were transferred to overpacks and transported to a chemical company for disposal. General cargo was the last to be offloaded. In the operation, 263 damaged drums and 2200 litres of epichlorohydrin were taken for disposal. It was estimated that about 8100 litres of epichlorohydrin had evaporated during the course of the operation.

Also during the operation, there were no tug boats available that had equipment to monitor the toxic gases. Furthermore, the vapours of epichlorohydrin were found to be more dangerous than expected and 30 persons involved in the response and from the media had to be taken for medical examination.

last modified 2020-12-09T12:11:38+00:00