Hamburg, Germany – In a recent maritime incident, the Port of Hamburg is grappling with the aftermath of the sinking of the inland barge, Alster, at the Kalikai terminal on February 6. The vessel, measuring 263 feet (80 meters) in length, was loaded with 1,400 tons of potassium chloride, commonly used in fertilizer production, along with 3,500 liters of diesel fuel.
Emergency Response and Environmental Impact
The incident unfolded as the captain and a deckhand discovered the vessel listing around 5:00 a.m. local time. Quick action led to an emergency call reporting water ingress, and the crew safely reached the dock. Within an hour, the barge sank to the bottom of the Elbe.
Emergency services, including two fireboats and onshore crews, responded promptly. A containment barrier was deployed, though a small oil leak occurred, contaminating approximately 5,000 square meters of the harbor. Fortunately, the salt cargo remained secure.
Greenpeace joined the response efforts, expressing concerns about potential environmental ramifications. They conducted water quality tests and warned that a potassium chloride leak could elevate the Elbe’s salinity, causing osmotic shock in aquatic organisms.
Terminal Operations and Salvage Plans
The Kalikai terminal, operated by K+S Transport, plays a vital role in the European manufacture of potash fertilizers and salt products. Annually handling around 500 sea and inland vessels, the terminal manages a significant volume of mineral fertilizer, totaling four million tons.
As of Tuesday afternoon, environmental authorities, in collaboration with the Hamburg Port Authority and the vessel owner, were discussing salvage arrangements. The focus is on preventing further damage to the Elbe and its surroundings. A specialized firm is expected to be brought in for the challenging salvage operation.
The captain, reportedly in shock, and the deckhand, both attended to by medical teams, underline the human aspect of the incident, emphasizing the importance of a swift and coordinated response to maritime emergencies.