On 10 November 1998, the chief mate of the chemical tanker the Panam Perla discovered that the 100 tonnes of sulphuric acid missing from one of the tanks were in the compartments of the double hull of the ship, due to a rupture in the water tightness of the tank.
The corrosive action of the acid in the presence of water in the double hull produced hydrogen and could have led to an explosion and the spilling of 10,000 tonnes of acid into the sea.
The vessel was a day's journey from a chemical terminal, and was given permission to unload the cargo and empty the double hull. After inerting the ballasts, permission was given to pump out the acid and the intervention team used a submersible pump.
team could not be equipped with heavy protective equipment because
of the diameter of the manholes. They therefore had to resort to
light protective acid resistant clothing and a piped air supply,
with small canisters of air positionned along the way in case of
a sudden leak.
Pumping operations were completed a week after the leak was discovered. The 3 missing tonnes of sulphuric acid were neutralised by bicarbonate.
Name: Panam Perla
Date: 10 November 1998
Accident area: Wilmington, North Carolina
Cause of spill: damage to ship
Quantity transported: 10,000 tonnes
Type of pollutant: sulphuric acid
Quantity spilled: 100 tonnes
Ship type: chemical tanker
Date built: 1994
Place built: Japan
Last update: April 2006