Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Leaking Ship Allowed Through Barrier Reef

Australia's maritime safety bureau allowed a foreign container ship leaking a dangerous chemical to sail through the Great Barrier Reef, an investigation has found. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has released its findings into the journey of the Kota Pahlawan through the Great Barrier Reef in June last year, which went ahead despite the ship's master reporting the ship was leaking a dangerous chemical. The German-owned, Liberian-registered Kota Pahlawan left Singapore for Brisbane on June 12, with eight containers of chemicals known as xanthates, which are used in industry and mining. According to the ATSB report, a highly flammable and foul-smelling vapour known as carbon disulphide is emitted by xanthates when it comes into contact with moisture. The vapour can be ignited through contact with an ordinary light bulb or a warm steam pipe, the report said. Four days into the ship's journey the crew noticed a foul odour coming from containers carrying the xanthates, and the ship's master observed that the chemicals had not been packaged according to international standards.
Kota Pahlawan
The master informed the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) of the leaking vapours early the next day, on June 18. Just three hours later an Australian pilot boarded the ship to guide the Kota Pahlawan through the Great Barrier Reef. But he was unaware of the report to the AMSA, and guided the ship through the northern part of the reef later that day. The following day the AMSA issued a defect report for Kota Pahlawan and advised Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) of the risks posed by leaking vapours from xanthates. The ship continued its passage down the Queensland coast and anchored off Brisbane on June 21, where the containers were discharged and purged. In its report, the ATSB recommended the AMSA take action to address the delay to "appropriately assess the risks" associated with the leakage of the flammable vapours.

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