Hazardous and noxious substances carried as cargo by boxships present an increasing risk of harm to people, several expert speakers have told the SpillCon event in Australia.
International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation technical team manager Michael O’Brien said: “We tend to get called out on spills of importance around the world. However, for containership incidents, it’s a possibly increasing trend, although it’s very variable.”
The ITOPF is typically called out to deal with boxship bunker spills but also, increasingly, for HNS, he told the conference in Cairns, Queensland.
“Dangerous goods are also important. A lot of times boxships will have official dangerous goods, but when there is a fire you create new dangerous goods — things will change in character when they burn or get wet.
“Decaying cargo is also a real issue. When refrigerated [systems] lose power — which happens quite quickly — [the cargoes] become hazardous materials. Sulphide exposure is not to be underestimated. Salvors working on ships are routinely killed because of this.”
It is a threat being taken seriously by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.
“We’re looking at significantly beefing up our HNS capability,” said Jamie Storrie, AMSA’s manager of marine environment pollution response, who was talking about the implementation of Australia’s national plan for dealing with marine pollution.
Transport of HNS chemicals is on the increase. About 165m tonnes was transported internationally by sea in 2009, which is expected to increase to about 215m tonnes by 2015.
About 2,000 chemicals are transported regularly and a much larger number less frequently.
Several hundred chemicals are transported in bulk and there is a large segment in containers, said AMSA senior response co-ordinator Peter Stacey.
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