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How dangerous is the cargo in CHESHIRE holds?

Aug. 25, 2017 at 17:31 by Mikhail Voytenko in Accidents

Bulk carrier CHESHIRE and deployed SAR tugs at 1630 UTC Aug 25 were in vicinity 27 00N 015 15W, 55 nm off Gran Canaria, apparently in designated for salvage area.
Maritime authorities of Canary Islands made an official statement on CHESHIRE status, salvage and involved risks. There are, expectedly, no risks, situation is under control, and though nobody yet boarded the vessel, decomposition chemical reaction, which is in full swing in Holds 1 and 2, is soon to be over. There is still a lot of yellow smoke billowing from the vessel, but it should end soon, in several days max.
Meanwhile, I received information on CHESHIRE’s cargo characteristics, from a company, which specializes in emergency PR of troubled companies.

… the cargo on Cheshire is described as ammonium nitrate based fertiliser - non-hazardous and is categorised as a Group C cargo i.e. one that is neither prone to liquefaction (Group A) nor possesses chemical hazards (Group B) in the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code. Ammonium Nitrate however is a Group B cargo.

“The cargo on Cheshire is described as Complex NPK fertiliser, which is an ammonium nitrate based fertiliser - non-hazardous and is categorised as a Group C cargo i.e. one that is neither prone to liquefaction (Group A) nor possesses chemical hazards (Group B) in the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code. Ammonium Nitrate however is a Group B cargo.”


How come, that CHESHIRE’s cargo doesn’t possess chemical hazard, with all those toxic fumes billowing around, for soon-to-be two weeks? And what’s that “liquefaction” thing about, when the main fear was fear of explosion, and by the way, still is?
That’s what other sources say on that non-hazardous Complex NPK fertilizer, in detail:
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40090-017-0121-4
http://www.burgoynes.com/articles/2015/03/the-carriage-and-potential-hazards-of-npk-fertilizers
Some quotes:

- Complex ammonium nitrate-based NP and NPK fertilizers are multicomponent salt systems prone to high hygroscopicity, caking and explosive thermal decomposition.
- Cases of explosion of AN and complex AN-based fertilizers are well known: in 1921 in the warehouse in Oppau (Germany), in 1947 in the warehouse in the bay in Texas City (USA), in 2001 in the warehouse in Toulouse (France), in 2013 in the warehouse in West (USA).
- Ammonium nitrate based NPK fertilizers are thermally stable and are not prone to self-heat dangerously under normal conditions of storage and transport. They are not combustible but when heated sufficiently they will decompose.
The principal means of classifying an NPK cargo as “non-hazardous” is on the basis of its performance in the Trough test. Our experience, however, is that the Trough test does not adequately reflect the potentially hazardous behaviour in bulk of material that under the conditions of the test can be designated “non-hazardous”.


With each passing day risk of explosion seems to be lowering, and hopefully, decomposition will soon ran out with nothing left to decompose. Still, risk remains. The main conclusion I was able to draw from all those technical and scientific sources on NPK AN-based fertilizer, which I found in Internet, is as follows – no one knows for sure, no one can guarantee anything. There’s the question of sheer quantity of it. Not often, if ever, 40,000 tons of NPK AN-based fertilizer go on decomposing itself, out of any control or means of putting it under control.
Nobody, ever, encountered such an accident. No expertise, no practices, no means – just good old “wait and see” approach. Well, and pray, of course.

Voytenko Mikhail
August 26, 2017

Previous articles:
https://www.fleetmon.com/maritime-news/2017/19379/bulk-carrier-cheshire-and-public-safety-management/
https://www.fleetmon.com/maritime-news/2017/19343/bulk-carrier- CHESHIRE -under-tow-gran-canaria-water/
https://www.fleetmon.com/maritime-news/2017/19327/floating-bomb-moving-towards-canary-islands/
https://www.fleetmon.com/maritime-news/2017/19307/bulk-carrier- CHESHIRE -fire-20-aug-update-largest-n/

How dangerous is the cargo in CHESHIRE holds?

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