Acid Ship Sinks Of Bay of Biscay

Tuesday, March 20, 2001
A Maltese-registered tanker carrying 8,000 tons of potentially explosive sulphuric acid sank in the Bay of Biscay on Tuesday, French maritime authorities said. The 23 crew were picked up by ships and were safe, they said. Ship manager Traschimar of Monaco said on Tuesday that it was the manager of the Balu, which sank at 0920 GMT in weather conditions it described as "severe." A spokesman for France's Atlantic Surveillance and Rescue Center said there was a slight risk that the sulphuric acid would explode on contact with water. "The motor tanker Balu is reported sunk in international waters this morning about 130 miles (209 km) north of (the Spanish port of) La Coruna... while facing severe weather conditions," read a statement from Traschimar. French maritime authorities said earlier that it was not clear why the 5,795-ton tanker had sunk, and described weather conditions as "normal" for the time of year. Traschimar said that the South Korean master and Croatian and Filipino crew had been rescued by two passing ships, the Porto Express and the Baltic Carrier. The crew was described as "safe and in good condition." Traschimar said the 1977-built vessel had been heading for Huelva in Spain with an 8,012 ton cargo of sulphuric acid, which it said would dissolve very quickly in water without affecting the marine environment. Spanish National radio said there were reports that a big toxic cloud had escaped the stricken ship, but a plane sent by the French Maritime Office detected no pollution. An official at the Brest Maritime Office in northern France said the sea there was about 4,800 metres deep. - (Reuters)
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