Published Thursday, 03 October 2013
A 50m exclusion zone was set up while emergency crews dealt with the incident. (© Pacemaker)
The nine people were exposed to the leak while a shipment of grain was being unloaded in Warrenpoint Harbour.
The workers were taken to hospital as the fire service cordoned off an area around the quayside when a fumigant retainer began to smoke.
Other retainers, also containing aluminium phosphide, spilled onto the ground as they were being removed from the ship.
The emergency started after the Arklow Meadow docked following a 14 day voyage from the Ukraine last December.
As the grain was unloaded, it became apparent that the fumigant, which had been placed on top of the cargo, was still active, according to a report by the Marine Accident Investigation branch.
The ship's crew was evacuated ashore after the retainers, which had been collected and placed inside plastic bags, started to smoke.
A 50m exclusion zone was set up around the Arklow Meadow as police and emergency crews dealt with the major incident.
The eight crew and a stevedore, who had potentially been exposed to the gas, were taken to hospital for observation and decontamination.
Another nine people received treatment at the scene.
A total of 89 fumigant retainers were recovered from the ship and shore area.
They were neutralised after being immersed in water.
However, 21 retainers were left unaccounted for.
It took five days for the level of gas in the vessel's cargo holds to reduce to an acceptable level, according to the investigation report.
It also claimed that, although Warrenpoint Harbour Authority had reacted quickly, the port had not developed procedures or emergency plans to deal specifically with potential hazards associated with fumigants.
The report said: "Onboard procedures for the carriage of fumigated cargoes were scant, and the instructions provided by the fumigator in the Ukraine were not followed."
It added: "A recommendation has been made to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency aimed at improving the guidance available regarding the carriage of fumigated cargoes.
"A recommendation has been made to the British Ports Association and the UK Major Ports Group to help ensure that all UK ports have procedures and emergency plans in place when dealing with fumigated cargoes."
© UTV News