- Accident date
- Accident area
- Reunion Island
- Spill area
- Cause of spill
- Structural damage
- Product transported
- 21,000 tonnes of deoxidized iron ore balls, 470 tonnes of propulsion fuel and 50 tonnes of diesel
- Nature of pollutant
- deoxidized iron ore balls and diesel
- Quantity spilled
- 21, 000 tonnes
- Ship / structure type
- Bulk carrier
- Built date
- 165 m
- Sulzer shipping corp., Grèce
In September 2003, the 17-year-old Cypriot-registered, Greek-owned bulk carrier Adamandas was transporting a cargo of 21,000 tonnes of deoxidizes iron ore balls from Trinidad to Surabaya (Indonesia).
During the journey, an increase in the temperature of the cargo caused the vessel to have to stop over in Durban (South Africa), where an inerting operation was carried out on the holds using nitrogen; however this did not definitively resolve the cause of the increase in temperature. Nevertheless, the South African port authorities allowed the vessel to leave.
The main danger associated with deoxidized iron ore is its high tendency to reoxidize in the presence of humidity. This reoxidization is a highly exothermic reaction and produces hydrogen. Transportation of this ore by sea therefore requires the following precautions to be taken:
- the ore loaded must be perfectly dry
- holds should be equipped with thermocouples to measure the temperature
- the vessel should be able to measure the amount of hydrogen present in the holds.
In the event of rapid oxidation of the cargo, the main risk is that of explosion if the vessel is unable to evacuate the hydrogen produced. The other risk is the weakening of the ship's structures due to the effect of heat. This can lead to the destruction of the ship, causing the bunker fuel to be released into the sea.
On 12 September, the Adamandas entered the French territorial waters of Reunion and requested permission to berth at the Port des Galets so as to inert the holds with nitrogen. During prior inspection in the estuary, the assessment team reported a very high temperature. Furthermore, the ship did not have an evaporator onboard, which was needed to inert the holds, nor was one available on the island. The vessel was ordered to remain anchored in front of the port of Possession and to aerate the holds to reduce the hydrogen content.
On 16 September, the Reunion authorities gave the captain formal notice to reduce the temperature to a suitable level for berthing in the port. Over the following days, the holds continued to be ventilated, although the problem was not resolved as the temperature reached 300°C.
On 18 September, the order was given to defuel, leaving only the fuel needed to manoeuvre, meaning the removal of around 470 tonnes of IFO 180 and 50 tonnes of diesel, within 24 hours. The pump rate of the onboard pump (5 m³/h) was too low for the timeframe imposed. Meanwhile, the French authorities reported that no pump suitable for the pumping operation existed on the island.
On 19 September, the structures of the Adamandas began to weaken due to the effect of the heat. The authorities, considering there to be a risk of fire or explosion at any time, set up a maritime and aerial exclusion zone 400 metres around the vessel. On 20 September, the vessel was ordered to immediately leave the territorial waters with an escort; six crew members were evacuated upon their own request. On 21 September, as the ship’s masters had not obeyed the orders given, the authorities ordered the French Navy to move the vessel away. The Abeille Cilaos towed the Adamandas beyond the Pointe des Galets, under the control of the French authorities. Upon the captain’s request, all the crew were then evacuated.
Response: scuttling the vessel
On 21 September, after a meeting with all the parties involved with the Adamandas and its cargo (shipowner, manager, charterer, captain, insurers and experts), the shipowner merely proposed inspection by a new team of experts or water suction (by whom and how?). No rapid, safe and effective technical solution was found that would satisfy the State’s expectations in terms of timeframes and safety. Due to the uncertainty concerning the situation onboard, the authorities ordered the vessel to be destroyed and scuttled as far away and as deep as possible. The shipowner and charterer were immediately informed of this decision.
On 22 September, French Navy bomb disposal divers conducted the blasting operation on the vessel. The hull was perforated at 9 a.m. and the ship sank at 2 p.m. in water 1,700 metres deep, 20 km north-west of Reunion.
An agent from Cedre, rapidly sent to the area to join the crisis centre, participated in an overflight of the area to assess the upwellings of oil.
Several expected phenomena were observed: the appearance of sheen due to diesel from generating sets, which dissipated by evaporation over the following hours, and of oily patches caused by the bunker fuel, which were treated with dispersant by two patrol boats, the Boudeuse and the Rieuse, both equipped with spraying equipment and 4,000 litres of dispersant.
The French Navy carried out regular aerial surveillance around the wreck for several days, until no more pollutant was released. An Argos marker buoy was deployed on site to monitor the potential drift of the pollutant.