In July 1999, the CMA Djakarta was off the coast of Cyprus when there was an explosion on deck followed by a fire. Despite significant efforts, the crew could not control the fire and further explosions occurred. The vessel was abandoned and subsequently grounded off the Egyptian coast where salvors took over. The fire was eventually put out and the vessel was towed to Malta as a port refuge and then to Croatia for repairs.
Investigations were carried out and it appeared that the explosions and fire on deck had been caused by a cargo of calcium hypochlorite. This product had self-combusted, possibly as a result of impurities, either due to the manufacturing process of such bleaching powder or as a result of contamination during transport.
The results of this investigation led the shipowner of the CMA Djakarta to take the charterer to court. The London-based arbitrators decided that the transport of containers of dangerous substances violated the contract which expressly prohibited the shipment of “any goods of a dangerous, injurious, flammable or corrosive nature”. The court’s decision delivered in London in January 2002 sentenced the charterer to damages to cover repairs to the damaged vessel as well as an indemnity to compensate for costs incurred (salvage, cargo…). Meanwhile, the charterer established a limitation fund through the Commercial Court of Marseille, in compliance with the 1976 Limitation Convention.
The charterer appealed but in February 2004 the appeal was rejected by the London Court of Admiralty. The court confirmed that there was no limit of liability for the costs of vessel repair and salvage operations. However it overruled the first judgement concerning indemnity for the loss of cargo. It decided that the charterers were entitled to limit their liability for this indemnity.
Name: CMA Djakarta
Date: 10 July 1999
Accident area: off the coast of Cyprus
Cause of spill: explosion
Type of pollutant: calcium hypochlorite
Ship type: container ship
Owner: Classica Shipping Co., Ltd
Charterer: CMA-CGM S.A., Marseille, France
Last update: February 2010