On 19 March 1999, a fire started in the machine room of the Cypriot chemical tanker Multitank Ascania. The crew made unsuccessful attempts to extinguish it. The engines were stopped and the carbon dioxide system was activated to try to calm the flames.
The master asked for assistance in the Pentland Firth (north of Scotland) because the vessel was carrying a cargo of 1,800 tonnes of vinyl acetate monomer, a highly flammable liquid. Rescue units were sent on site and all the crew except the master were airlifted off. The master managed to anchor the ship and then he was evacuated.
An exclusion zone within a radius of 5 km was set up and almost 600 local residents were evacuated. The evolution of the fire was monitored using a thermal imaging camera from a helicopter.
The following day, 2 salvage personnel were lowered onto the vessel. They reported that the fire appeared to be out. The fire was thought to have been caused by thermal oil leaking from a pump of the thermal oil system. No pollution was detected.
The salvage master, the vessel’s crew and the representatives of Multitank Ascania’sowners elaborated a procedure for a ship-to-ship transfer of the cargo of vinyl acetate monomer onto a lightering tanker. As it no longer constituted a danger, the vesselwas towed to the coast and moored alongside Lyness Pier. The transhipment was made on 29 March and took 11 hours.
On 30 March, the Multitank Ascania was then taken under tow to Rotterdam for repair.
Name: Multitank Ascania
Date: 19 March 1999
Location: Great Britain
Accident area: Pentland Firth, north of Scotland
Cause of spill: fire
Quantity transported: 1,800 tonnes
Type of pollutant: vinyl acetate monomer
Ship type: chemical carrier
Date built: 1981
Length: 102.77 m
Width: 14 m
Draught: 5.45 m
Owner: C F Ahrenkiel Shipmanagement Ltd, Limassol, Cyprus
Last update: September 2009