- Ece/General Grot Rowecki
- Accident date
- Accident area
- Les Casquets
- Spill area
- Cause of spill
- Quantity transported
- 10,000 tonnes
- Nature of pollutant
- Phosphoric acid
- Ship / structure type
- Chemical tanker
- Built date
- 126 m
- Marshall Islands
On the night of 30 to 31 January 2006, the Maltese bulk carrier the General Grot Rowecki, transporting 26,000 tonnes of phosphates from Safi in Morocco to Police in Poland, collided with the Marshall Islands chemical tanker the Ece en route from Casablanca in Morocco to Ghent in Belgium.
The accident occurred in a zone located 50 nautical miles (90 km) west of Cherbourg, near the Casquet Traffic Separation Scheme in international waters. The Ece, transporting 10,000 tonnes of phosphoric acid, developed a leak and a significant list.
The regional marine rescue coordination centre (CROSS-Jobourg) coordinated the crew rescue operation, in collaboration with the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency. The 22 crew members were safely evacuated to Guernsey. The tug boat the Abeille Liberté was sent to the scene of the accident.
The Préfecture Maritime for the English Channel and the North Sea (Premar-Manche) then carried out a pollution risk analysis, with the support of the French Navy anti-pollution centre (CEPPOL) and Cedre. In addition to the cargo, according to information provided by the ship owner, there were 70 tonnes of propulsion fuel (IFO 180), 20 tonnes of marine diesel and 20 tonnes of lubricating oil onboard the Ece. The General Grot Rowecki, whose bluff bow was slightly damaged, was able to continue her journey.
The tug boat the Abeille Liberté arrived on site on 31 January towards 7 am. The assessment teams did not note any pollution, and boarded the two damaged ships. The Ece showed a 25° stabilized list to port and was no longer operating. When the assessment had been completed, the vessel was taken in tow by the tug the Abeille Liberté at around 3:30 pm, bound for the port of Le Havre. In the course of towing, the Ece sank 70 m deep 50 nautical miles west of the point of La Hague, on 1st February at 3:37 am. The wreck lies in international waters, on the continental shelf of the United Kingdom, in the French exclusive economic zone and the French pollution response zone. The Manche Plan, a bilateral Franco-British mutual aid agreement for rescue and pollution response, was activated on 1st February.
Negotiations between French and British authorities on the one hand and the ship-owner and insurers on the other led to an agreement being met on 16 June 2006 for the removal of the hydrocarbons remaining onboard the wreck (some forty tonnes) and for the planned controlled release of the phosphoric acid, by opening the access channels to the six tanks using a remote controlled robot. The operation will be undertaken by the ship-owner during the summer period, under the control of the authorities. The operations are to be completed by 15 September. Until this date, fishing will continue to be banned around the wreck. The flag state was asked to take position.
- International scientific and operational cooperation is needed in order to fight the threat posed by chemical pollutants (The Manche Plan worked well between France and Great Britain).
- Pumping fuel oil, lubricating oil and toxic chemicals (likely to create toxic clouds) is strongly recommended.
- Controlled release of soluble non-toxic and non-bioaccumulable cargo is an acceptable option, depending on environmental sensibility.
- Once again, there is a real need for the authorities to have precise knowledge of products' physicochemical characteristics.
Phosphoric acid, Chemical response guide
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), International Chemical Safety Sheet: phosphoric acid.
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, Basic information on phosphoric acid.
Office Chérifien des Phosphates, Manufacturer's website phosphoric acid.