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Nitric Acid-Carrying Cargo Vessel Goes Missing

Posted December. 26, 2007 04:14,   


A cargo vessel carrying chemicals sank in seas off Yeosu yesterday. A sailor of the vessel was rescued but 14 of the crew are still missing. The ship, carrying 2,000 tons of nitric acid, may cause serious sea pollution in the area.

The cargo vessel Eastern Bright sent a distress signal yesterday at around 4:19 in the morning 13km of east Yeosu before it sank.

12 Korean sailors, including captain Jeong Chun-yeong (54) and three Myanmarese sailors, were on board.

Yeosu Maritime Police sent nine patrol ships and choppers and rescued a Myanmarese sailor, Myotei (29), about five hours later. The rest of the crew and the vessel are still missing.

The rescued Myanmarese sailor said, “I fell from my bed while I was sleeping and I went up to the deck wearing a life jacket. Then suddenly the ship slanted to the left and I was washed away by the waves.

He added, “Other crew members were swept off the ship by waves without life jackets. I didn’t hear a crash with another vessel or rocks.”

Strong winds of 12 meters per hour and big waves of three to four meters were recorded near the scene of the accident.

The maritime police discovered a 20-meter wide and 270-meter long oil slick around the shipwreck site.

The police search and rescue effort with patrol vessels and helicopters was hindered due to the high waves.

Based on Myotei’s statement, the missing sailors might have drowned or may be trapped in the vessel. As the temperature of the seawater in winter dramatically drops at night, the possibility of survivors is low.

An official from the maritime police said, “We cannot guarantee we will rescue the missing sailors alive, but we will continue to search.”

The vessel was owned by NHL Development, which is a Busan-based logistics company. It sailed from Gwangyang, South Jeolla Province to Taiwan carrying 2,000 tons of nitric acid.

An official from the company said, “The possibility of spilling the chemicals from the ship is very low because of a safety device equipped with pressure-tanks which holds the nitric acid. Even if it spills, it will not pollute the sea as much as oil because the chemicals will dilute with the water.”

The police, however, have been conducting pH tests with collected water samples from the scene of the accident in preparation for leakage of nitric acid and have prepared 120 tons of anti-spill solution, including Bunker C oil.