Coast Guard: Missing container a chemical hazard

The following is the text of a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard:

(MIAMI) — The Coast Guard continues to respond to the loss of containers from the barge Columbia Elizabeth, which reported losing multiple containers between Cape Canaveral and Palm Beach, Fla., on Sunday.

Marine prevention teams from Coast Guard Sector Miami and Marine Safety Detachment Lake Worth have been dispatched to the Port of Palm Beach where the barge is currently being unloaded.

As of Tuesday afternoon, crews have removed 243 containers from the barge at the Port of Palm Beach. Crews will continue to remove containers surrounding the affected cargo bay to better access and assess how many containers were lost. The Coast Guard estimates that as many as 25 containers may have fallen overboard at sea.

Nine containers are confirmed to have fallen overboard so far. The Coast Guard continues to issue hourly safety marine information broadcasts along the Florida Atlantic coastline, advising boaters to maintain a lookout for containers that may be adrift at sea.

One missing container is known to contain wet cell batteries. While the batteries are not believed to pose a serious environmental risk, the batteries do contain corrosive material which may result in chemical burns to the skin. Mariners and beachgoers are urged to not approach or open any containers in the water on shore. Anyone finding containers or batteries should contact the U.S. Coast Guard via VHF marine radio Channel 16, the Coast Guard National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802, or their local fire or police departments.

Coast Guard air assets continue to search the Florida Atlantic Coast between Palm Beach and Cape Canaveral for containers in the water or along the shoreline.  

The cause of the incident is under investigation.

By Professional Mariner Staff