Sulfuric acid in one of missing containers from Maersk ship


(OREGON INLET, N.C.) — A container lost from a Maersk cargo ship in heavy seas off the Outer Banks on Saturday night contains nearly 6,000 pounds of sulfuric acid, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

Maersk Shanghai reported to the U.S. Coast Guard late Saturday that seas of up to 30 feet and winds up to 65 miles per hour knocked overboard about 70 of its 3,000 containers. They fell about 17 miles off the coast of Oregon Inlet.

A Coast Guard spokesman said the danger posed by the sulfuric acid — a colorless, oily liquid that burns skin on contact and corrodes most metals — is minimal because the solution dissolves in salt water. The container held 5,913 pounds of the acid in sealed drums, he said. The substance is most commonly used to produce fertilizer.

Authorities are not certain what is in the other containers. The ship’s crew reported the missing acid container after an inventory and it is believed to be the only lost container marked hazardous.

The Coast Guard found four of the containers floating 10 to 14 miles offshore and approximately 50 miles south of where they were lost. About half of each container was floating 4 to 5 feet above the surface.

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By Professional Mariner Staff