The USCG has published Marine Safety Alert 01-17 relating to hazards from chemical spills. USCG inspectors found several cracks and parted seams in the aluminium braces of the structure underneath a vessel’s cargo deck. They learned that there had been a caustic soda* spill on the deck. While it was washed off the vessel with water, a diluted caustic soda and water mix seeped into and settled underneath the wood planking. A chemical reaction then occurred, causing damage and the need for extensive repairs.
As can be seen in this case, in addition to potential health risks to personnel involved with routine handling and clean-up of spills, there is also the potential for adverse chemical reactions with vessel components, construction materials, and other items on-board. The full alert can be found on the USCG website.
*Caustic Soda (Sodium Hydroxide, NaOH) is highly reactive with aluminium, causing it to oxidize and corrode quickly. Additionally, when caustic soda is exposed to aluminium under some conditions it can also produce highly flammable hydrogen gas.
IMCA has published a pocket safety card entitled Hazardous substances safety guide. Members may wish to refer to the following incidents:
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