4th October 1999, the Egyptian cargo boat Junior M, transporting
6,900 tonnes of ammonium nitrate in bulk, indicated to the MRCC
of Corsen point, controlling traffic off the coast of Brittany,
that there was a water leakage in one of its three holds. An assessment
survey onboard revealed that the ship’s pumps were unable
to drain water in the flooded hold and in several ballasts.
The Junior M was diverted towards Brest's harbour by the Préfecture Maritime. The risks involved were well known to the harbour. In 1947, it experienced the fire and explosion of a liberty ship transporting 3,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate (21 people killed, hundreds injured, more than 4,000 houses devastated). The reception operation of the Junior M was built around a safety area, where its holds could be flooded if fire started.
The shipowner was unable to carry out the different formal demands from the authorities, and ship had to stay alongside the quay under the permanent control of the fire brigade. As the water leakage in one of the holds in the bow could not be sealed, nearly 50 m³ of water, which dissolved more and more the remaining ammonium nitrate, was pumped from the vessel.
After an ecological assessment comparing land and sea disposal options, the decision was made to dump the nitrate solution in the open sea, in packs of 400 m³ (120 tonnes), according to a process similar to that of the Fénès in Corsica in 1996 (wheat cargo dumped in the open sea). Some 700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate solution were spilled during the six operations in November.
The remaining part of the cargo was sold and transported by train at the beginning of the year 2000, the unloading being at the State’s expense. The abandoned ship stayed alongside the quay in Brest's harbour for over a year before it was sold.
Name: Junior M
Date: 4 October 1999
Accident area: off the coast of Brest
Cause of spill: damage
Quantity transported: 6,900 tonnes
Type of pollutant: ammonium nitrate
Quantity spilled: 700 tonnes
Ship type: cargo boat
Last update: April 2006