grande policecontraste



On 14 July 1974, the Yugoslavian cargo vessel Cavtat, which was carrying 150 tonnes of tetramethyl lead (TML) and 120 tonnes of tetraethyl lead (TEL) in drums, collided with the Panamanian bulk carrier Lady Rita in the Strait of Otranto off the Italian coast. The hull of the Cavtat was split open in the accident, making salvage of the whole vessel impossible. The ship sank in Italian territorial waters 4 hours after collision.

After more than two years of discussions and debate, the Italian Parliament granted financial support for salvage of the cargo. An Italian offshore company was in charge of localization and lifting of the 900 drums which were 100 m deep. Teams of divers worked for 1 year and 93% of the cargo was finally salvaged. The cost of the operation was 16 million USD.

20 tonnes of tetraalkyl lead remained lost. Ecological monitoring carried out afterwards showed minor environmental effects.


  • HELCOM, 2002, HELCOM Response Manual - Volume 2
  • MAMACA Emina, GIRIN Michel, LE FLOCH Stéphane and EL ZIR Rawad, 2009, Review of chemical spills at sea and lessons learnt, Interpill 2009 conference

Name: Cavtat/Lady Ritat

Date: 14 July 1974

Location: Italy

Accident area: strait of Otranto

Cause of spill: collision

Quantity transported: 270 tonnes

Type of pollutant: tetraalkyl lead

Quantity spilled: 270 tonnes

Ship type: cargo vessel

Flag: Yugoslavian


Last update: August 2009

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