All 24 crew had to be evacuated from the bulk carrier Cheshire, 56,597dwt, of the Bibby Line, of Liverpool, to avoid toxic fumes after part of her cargo of 42,654 tonnes of ammonium nitrate fertiliser was found to be overheating as she neared Gran Canaria.
The ship was on a voyage from Porsgrunn, Norway, to Thailand and had been due to stop at Las Palmas on Aug 13 to take on bunkers, but she was refused permission to berth at Las Palmas when the overheating of the cargo in Nos 4 and 5 holds was discovered.
The temperature rose to a high enough level to cause damage to a hatch cover. The Bibby Line said the winds were so light that the fumes were not being blown away from the ship and the decision was taken to take the crew ashore.
This was carried out by two Spanish Coast Guard helicopters on Aug 14 after an explosion in the cargo. The Bibby Line said that on Aug 13, the ship had arrived at a safe position some 45 miles south of Gran Canaria and the line said she was drifting away from the land in a southerly direction.
An eight-strong salvage team, arranged by the US salvors Resolve Marine, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, flew from Gibraltar and the Netherlands, was delayed boarding the ship due to adverse weather conditions and by the gas cloud to begin cooling the affected areas.
The offshore tug/supply ship Punta Salvinas, 1,171gt, stood by the bulk carrier for several days until replaced by the rescue vessel Miguel de Cervantes, 1,780gt, which works with the Spanish Coast Guard when needed, and was to assist in cooling the ship’s hull.