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.
Name: Cavtat/Lady Ritat
Date: 14 July 1974
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
Last update: August 2009