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Panam Perla

Panam Perla
Accident date
Accident area
Wilmington, North Carolina
Spill area
Cause of spill
Structural damage
Quantity transported
10, 000 tonnes
Nature of pollutant
sulphuric acid
Quantity spilled
100 tonnes of sulphuric acid
Ship / structure type
Chemical tanker
Built date

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.

The 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.

Last update: 31/01/2006