On 4 November 1989, the cargo ship Julie A, moored in the Port of Aarhus (Denmark), reported a leak in one of the 3 tanks stored in a hold below deck, containing 300 tonnes of hydrochloric acid 33%. This is a highly corrosive chemical which can react with iron and form a flammable gas: hydrogen. The cargo ship’s engines were therefore shut down.
When the members of the response team arrived onboard the Julie A, they found themselves knee-deep in hydrochloric acid and had a visibility of only 2 metres. They found a 25 mm hole in the leaking tank, which they plugged with a wooden wedge.
The leak was caused by the internal tank coating which was not resistant enough to hydrochloric acid.
The spilt acid spread not only across the deck, but also into the ballast tank and threatened to reach the bottom of the ship. To prevent the cargo from being released into the environment, appropriate equipment had to be found to pump out the pollutant, which proved difficult. Some of the acid was transferred to a tank on the shore. During pumping operations, the teams noticed that the ship’s stability was decreased. The following day, the Julie A was moved to a dry dock where the pollutant was recovered through a hole drilled in the bottom of the ship.
Spill response was carried out successfully. This incident showed that the equipment used to transport hazardous substances must be compatible with the risks presented by the cargo.
Name: Julie A
Accident area: Port of Aarhus
Cause of spill: damage (structure, machine)
Product transported: hydrochloric acid
Quantity transported: unknown
Type of pollutant: hydrochloric acid
Quantity spilled: 1 to 5 tonnes
Ship type: cargo vessel
Last update: 24 June 2010