Containers, one filled with a potentially-hazardous chemical, which fell overboard from a freight carrier some 16 miles off Tramore last Tuesday, “more than likely” sunk without trace. However, material has begun washing up on the south coast – with authorities warning the public they could be playing with fire by collecting it.
The 9,500-tonne BG Dublin coastal feeder ship was on its way from Dublin to Cork when, buffeted by gale force 10 winds, the containers broke free.
The Waterford-based Irish Coast Guard Search and Rescue helicopter, assisted by the naval service’s LE Niamh, started searching for the missing cargo from 9am last Wednesday.
Their mission, concentrated around Mine Head near Ardmore, was initially hindered by very poor visibility off the southeast seaboard, but the crew spotted three of the seven 40ft containers during another fly-over that afternoon.
Six blue containers were carrying bird food, fire logs, medical equipment, and one red one contained sealed drums packed with the hazardous material Sodium Bromate – a chemical used in dyeing. However, ‘NaBrO3’, a crystalline powder, is fully soluble in salt water and the prospects of a pollution incident were deemed negligible.
With the search covering about 40 square nautical miles, Navy personnel did recover a number of bags of bird seed from the water but there was no trace of the containers on their radar. Initial shoreline trawls by the Coast Guard units in Tramore, Bunmahon, Helvick, Ardmore and Youghal were hampered by heavy fog.
Members of the public are warned that touching any loose bags containing the chemical could cause skin irritation. A spokesperson at the Dept of Transport said that if the firelogs which have since been washed ashore were contaminated with the chemical there’s a risk they could explode if used.
The Coast Guard has appealed to the public to stay clear of any debris from the missing containers and to contact it or the Garda on 999 or 112.