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MSC Carla

MSC Carla
Accident date
Accident area
off the Azores
Spill area
Cause of spill
Structural damage
Quantity transported
2,400 containers
Nature of pollutant
radioactive products
Quantity spilled
74 containers
Ship / structure type
Container ship
Built date
289.00 m
32.00 m

The MSC Carla, travelling from Le Havre (France) to Boston (USA), broke in two during the night of 24th November 1997 off the Azores because of a violent storm. The bow section sank on 30th November in 3,000 m-deep waters and some fifty-odd containers fell overboard. The stern section remained afloat and was towed to Las Palmas in mid-December. The 34 crew members were air-lifted by helicopter to safety by the Spanish maritime rescue organisation Sasemar.

Seventy-four of the 2,400 containers transported by the MSC Carla contained high quality wines and spirits, as well as flammable, combustive, poisonous, radioactive and corrosive products, among others. The hazardous materials transported were as follows:

-          6 containers of class 2 substances (compressed gas)

-          36 containers of class 3 substances (flammable)

-          6 containers of class 5 substances (combustive)

-          17 containers of class 6 substances(poisons)

-          1 containers of class 7 substances (radioactive)

-          6 containers of class 8 substances (corrosive)

-          2 containers of class 9 substances (miscellaneous) 

Products classified as marine pollutants were present in 14 containers. One of them was transporting three biological irradiators equipped with their radioactive sources (cesium 137). These radioactive cells are made to resist to pressure up to 200 m deep. They imploded as they plunged towards the seabed (3,000 m). The French Nuclear Protection and Safety Institute (IPSN) calculated that, as a result of the high depth of immersion, the dilution and degradation of the radioactive sources would limit the risks of exposure concerning the much reduced fauna in the surrounding area. The risks faced by consumers were non-existent, as the fishing techniques used in these areas reached no more than 2,000 metres deep. It was therefore decided that this container would not be recovered.

Last update: 02/07/2003

External links

Ship Structure Committee : MSC CARLA - Complete Hull Failure in a Lengthened Container Vessel