Cyprus Mail

Unloaded cargo from fire-damaged ship ‘poses no danger’

The Hanjin Athens, a 6,6278 gross tonnage container ship

By Elias Hazou

ALL OF THE containers unloaded so far from the Hanjin Athens have been checked and pose no environmental or health risks, while clearance is pending for the unloading of those containers classed as potentially dangerous, authorities said on Monday.

As the Cyprus Mail reported earlier this month, the Hanjin Athens, a 6,6278 gross tonnage container ship, caught fire while south of the Suez Canal on May 6. The fire was in the second hold and caused substantial damage to the cargo in that hold. The flames were put out on board.

Limassol harbourmaster Georgios Pouros said the ship’s captain had at the time requested to unload some of the damaged cargo, judging that otherwise it would be dangerous to stay on course to the original destination.

The ship, currently anchored outside the port of Limassol since early June, has since been allowed to dock on three occasions, unloading some 1400 containers unaffected by the fire. These are to be picked by other ships and transported to their final destination.

Still on board in the hold, however, are 240 containers, which a task force conducting inspections deemed to be “potentially dangerous” under certain conditions, such as being wet or being subjected to temperatures of over 480 Celsius.

But according to Pouros, the inspections determined that these containers do not pose any real or imminent danger.

The shipowners were expected to request the unloading of the 240 containers, of which approximately a third were drenched by fire extinguishers.

As for the mixture of fire-extinguishing fluids and burned materials inside the hold, Pouros said this too has been inspected and found not to be toxic. However, as the mixture is considered waste, it needs to be safely disposed off on land.

Pouros dismissed fears that the ship may try to dump the mixture into the sea on the sly, adding that authorities were monitoring the situation.

“There’s no way they could get away with it even if they tried,” he said.

Earlier, Pouros had told the Mail the cargo did contain some items classed as hazardous, but explained that this was a broad term covering almost 40 per cent of any goods aboard a ship. No class 1 (explosives and ammunition) or class 7 (radioactive materials) were on board the Hanjin Athens.

The cargo classified as hazardous mostly had to do with paint and refrigerant gas, he said. The freight in general includes such goods as clothes and perishables.

Pouros said the reason why the ship was not allowed to dock at Port Said back in May was most likely due to financial reasons.

He was responding to a statement released by the Greens on Monday, asking why the vessel was allowed to dock here instead of in Egypt or Italy, its final destination.

“Once more Cyprus is keen to become the dumpster of the eastern Mediterranean,” the party said.

For all their concern, the Greens somehow omitted to demand disclosure of the ship’s manifest.

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