Ethyl mercaptan fumes alarm at Port Botany as contaminated ship heads for Brisbane
Comrades, Two weeks ago here in Sydney, there was a strong smell over the whole Port Botany.
Investigations were carried out by the NSW Fire Brigade Hazmat Division, and the Sydney Ports Emergency Services.
Reports came back that it was a natural gas leak, and the total area was safe to work in.
But the smell continued to affect our members working at both terminals. Further investigations found that the smell was coming from Caltex at Port Botany, and it was not natural gas as claimed by all the authorities involved.
The smell was coming from a chemical additive to fuel that is called Ethyl Mercaptan. This smell was found to be coming from the Caltex Port Botany Terminal.
While all this was going on the two terminals (Patricks and DPW were closed down for some 3 days), the management of the terminals met with the Caltex management. I represented the Branch at these meetings, and there were also other concerned organizations working in the area at the meetings as well.
After two days of discussions between the parties, Caltex finally admitted it had a problem with the fumes. Caltex explained it had a shipment of this contaminated fuel sent to Australia, from Singapore, and there was a further shipment on the water heading to Australia. But this had been turned around, and sent back to Singapore.
Caltex explained that plans had been put into place to transfer the remaining contaminated fuel back to Kurnell, but this could take up to 60 hours.
Plans were made to place 2 NSW Fire Brigade Hazmat officers at both terminals; if these officers who would have monitors with them detect any fumes in the terminals. Work would cease immediately, until the fumes disbursed from the areas our members were working in.
Yesterday it was brought to my attention that DPW had closed down the terminal, 4 volunteers had been called for from the workforce, to go out and put the lids back onto the vessel.
These 4 employees had been fitted out with all the safety gear, to do the job.
On enquiring from Sydney Ports it was revelled that the vessel Kokopo Chief, had been refuelled in Gladstone with the contaminated fuel, before sailing to Sydney.
On approaching Sydney Ports Corp, I found out that this vessel the Kokopo Chief still had some 100 tonnes of this contaminated fuel still in its tanks.
Sydney Ports estimate it will burn up 90 tonnes of this fuel on the trip to Brisbane.
After talking to the National Office yesterday, it is recommended that this vessel is not worked until all the contaminated fuel is removed, and it is cleaned out, to take away the risk of making our members ill.
Brisbane Port Authority, after being informed by the Brisbane Branch Acting Assistant Secretary, would not allow the vessel to berth, until it had inspected the vessel.
The additive is called ETHYL MERCAPTAN, and can make you ill.