Sunken Ship Threatens Lasting Environmental Damage

Posted on 6/4/2021 by Roseanne Bottone

A cargo ship carrying 25 tons of nitric acid and other chemicals began to sink last week off the coast of Sri Lanka. A fire that started on May 20 burned for twelve days before it was extinguished on June 2.   

As of Friday, June 4, the vessel's stern (rear) was grounded on the seabed about 70 feet below the surface, and the ship's bow was slowly settling. The fire destroyed most of the 1,500 containers the ship was carrying. Eighty-one of them contained dangerous goods.

Why is Nitric Acid Hazmat?

Nitric acid (UN 2031) is a Class 8 corrosive hazardous material. Packing Group I and II nitric acid also carry a subsidiary hazard of Division 5.1 (oxidizer). A colorless liquid that is highly corrosive to most metals, nitric acid may cause fire when it contacts organic materials like wood, cotton, or straw. When it burns, it produces toxic gases.

When carried by vessel, nitric acid is subject to strict segregation requirements under the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG Code). The chemical must be stowed away from some other materials like Division 4.1 flammable solids and Division 5.1 oxidizers. Nitric acid must also be separated from Segregation Group 18 alkalis.  

Segregation requirements are indicated in column 16b of the IMDG Code Dangerous Goods List (IMDG Code 3.2).

A new edition of the IMDG Code (incorporating Amendment 40–20) comes into force on June 1, 2022 and is now in stock at

“Ecological Worst-case Scenario”

Observers fear the remaining dangerous goods aboard the vessel and the hundreds of tons of oil in its fuel tanks could be released into the sea and cause the country’s worst environmental disaster. So far, oil has not leaked but salvage experts are at the ready to monitor the situation in attempt to mitigate the potential for disastrous oil pollution.

The marine life is already in jeopardy. Oceanography experts estimate that up to 3 billion tiny plastic pellets called “nurdles” have already been released into the sea and are washing up on Sri Lanka beaches. The pellets are not biodegradable and will persist in the marine environment forever.

The Sri Lankan government has deployed soldiers to clean up affected beaches. They have suspended fishing along 50 miles of coastline where 5,600 fishing boats are located in some of the country’s richest fishing waters.

IMDG Hazmat Vessel Shipper Training: Live or Online

Expand on your 49 CFR expertise and learn the current international IMDG Code requirements you must know to safely offer fully-compliant hazardous materials shipments for vessel transportation. Build confidence to navigate and apply the IMDG Code to your shipments and prevent civil penalties now as high as $84,425 per day, per violation. 

Train at your own pace with the Hazmat Vessel Shipper Certification online course or join a Lion instructor for live, expert-led training on June 18 or July 1

Tags: hazardous materials, hazmat safety, hazmat vessel shipping, IMDG Code

Find a Post

Compliance Archives

Lion - Quotes

This course went above my expectations from the moment I walked in the door. The instructor led us through two days packed with useful compliance information.

Rachel Stewart

Environmental Manager

The instructor was probably the best I ever had! He made the class enjoyable, was humorous at times, and very knowledgeable.

Mary Sue Michon

Environmental Administrator

Lion is my preferred trainer for hazmat and DOT.

Jim Jani

Environmental Coordinator

The instructor was very engaging and helped less experienced people understand the concepts.

Steve Gall

Safety Leader

The instructor did an excellent job presenting a very dry subject; keeping everyone interested and making it enjoyable.

Marc Bugg

Hazardous Waste Professional

This training broke down the regulations in an easy-to-understand manner and made them less overwhelming. I now feel I have the knowledge to make more informed decisions.

Amanda Oswald

Shipping Professional

Excellent class, super instructor, very easy to follow. No rushing through material. Would like to take his class again.

Lawrence Patterson

EH&S Facility Maintenance & Security Manager

The instructor clearly enjoys his job and transmits that enthusiasm. He made a dry subject very interesting and fun.

Teresa Arellanes

EHS Manager

The instructor was very knowledgeable and provided pertinent information above and beyond the questions that were asked.

Johnny Barton

Logistics Coordinator

Course instructor was better prepared and presented better than other trainers. Course manual and references were easier to use as well.

Marty Brownfield

Hazardous Waste Professional

Download Our Latest Whitepaper

Your hazmat paperwork is the first thing a DOT inspector will ask for during an inspection. From hazmat training records to special permits, make sure your hazmat documents are in order.

Latest Whitepaper

By submitting your phone number, you agree to receive recurring marketing and training text messages. Consent to receive text messages is not required for any purchases. Text STOP at any time to cancel. Message and data rates may apply. View our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.