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Accident date
Accident area
mouth of the Elbe River
Spill area
Cause of spill
Structural damage
Quantity transported
975 tonnes
Nature of pollutant
Ship / structure type
Cargo vessel

On 18 July 1989, the Dutch cargo vessel Oostzee ran into a storm on its way from Rotterdam to Saint Petersburg. One part of the cargo was 3900 drums of epichlorohydrin which were stowed without proper lashings on the smooth-surfaced tweendeck. Because of the bad weather, drums began to slide and some of them were damaged. Vapours escaped and caused inhalation poisoning among the crew.

Oostzee was instructed by the German Shipping Administration to anchor at a place close to Cuxhaven. All 14 crewmen were hospitalised for 10 days.

As a first step, 2,200 litres of the spilled epichlorohydrin was pumped up and transported to a disposal site. The vessel was finally moved to a quiet port in the Elbe Estuary. The gas concentrations were far below the flammability point yet were highly toxic. A wide safety zone was established around the vessel (diameter of 1,000 m and height of 2000 ft) and then the engine rooms and the cargo holds were ventilated.

 263 damaged drums were transferred to overpacks and transported to a chemical company for disposal. 8,100 litres of epichlorohydrin had evaporated into the air during operations.

The epichlorohydrin vapours were found to be more dangerous than expected: 30 response personnel had to be medically examined and one person was irreversibly injured.


- HELCOM, 2002, HELCOM Response Manual - Volume 2
- Bonn Agreement, 1999, Chemical spills at sea: case studies, BONN 99/3/6-E

Last update on 17/08/2009

External links

Incident report available on the website Rempec

Epichlorohydrin, Material Safety Data Sheet

CIIMAR database:  fate and weathering of Hazardous and Noxious Substances (HNS) involved

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