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Salvors are Nearing the End of NS Qingdao's Burned Cargo Cleanup

SAMSA ns qingdao
NS Qingdao moves skiploads of hazardous waste from her number three cargo hold (SAMSA)

Published Mar 9, 2022 10:23 PM by The Maritime Executive

Six months after the chemical cargo fire aboard the bulker NS Qingdao at Durban, salvors are nearly finished with removing the remaining residues and sending the vessel safely on her way once more.

NS Qingdao arrived in Durban from South Korea in October. While in port at Durban, her chemical cargo became unstable due to contact with rainwater and began releasing toxic fumes. Samsa ordered the vessel to depart, and under escort, she headed for St. Helena Bay - some 850 nautical miles away on the Atlantic coast of South Africa - so that she could ventilate her hatches offshore. 

Once the chemical reaction subsided, salvors offloaded more than 1,000 tonnes of cargo residue into the sea in a planned dumping operation. The ship then returned to a berth at the port of Saldanha, where the last of the work is now under way. 

According to Samsa, the process of offloading the troublesome chemical cargo is expected to be completed over the next 14-21 days. SAMSA described the process as “the most intense, delicate and time consuming unstable cargo containment exercises” ever undertaken by South African authorities in recent years.

The last of the cargo is being discharged and disposed of on shore at a high hazardous waste landfill near Saldanha. Wastewater is also being pumped into tanks and sent for disposal at the same site. Once the work is finished, the vessel will be inspected by SAMSA and by class to make sure that she is safe to continue her voyage to Brazil with the remaining uncombusted cargo. “The vessel owner continues to co-operate with all authorities and have covered all expenses to date regarding the salvage operation," the agency said. 

At the offshore dumping site, satellite imaging has shown no immediate signs of harmful effects to the environment or marine life, SAMSA said. The agency has reached an agreement with the vessel’s owners and P&I club to implement a long-term environmental monitoring program so that any potential impacts can be assessed and mitigated.

“The P&I Club’s appointed environmental specialists . . . are continuously monitoring the coast and sea area to determine any threats to the marine environment resulting from the emergency disposal of cargo dumped approximately 250 km [135 nm] offshore,” said Samsa.