787 - 09/11 - Calcium Carbide container incident - USA

A Member of the UK P&I Club reported that a container being shipped on the UP Rail had its doors blown off due to detonation of two drums of Calcium Carbide shipped within the container. The incident took place approximately 70 miles from El Paso, Texas. Below are the IMDG codes for the commodity;



Shipping Name:    CALCIUM CARBIDE

IMO Class:    4.3

UN Number:    1402

Packing Group:    2

Marine Pollutant:    D

According to rail officials, the explosion was likely caused by a spark from the steel drums vibrating during transit.

Federal Rail Administration and shipping line surveyors inspected other Calcium Carbide shipments moving under the same bill of lading and found improper stowage in many of the containers.

The stowage problems noted below are likely to have contributed to the incident.

  • Several vertical securing bands on drum pallets were found to be loose.
  • A 6"-7" horizontal void space between the wood bracings and drums was found in each container, nothing was preventing the longitudinal movement of the drums or pallets.
  • Lumber for blocking and bracing should be a minimum size of 2"x6".  In addition a solid plywood bulkhead would be required on the inner side of the blocking and bracing with appropriate cut-outs to view the attached hazardous labels on the drums.
  • A plywood layer separator (minimum 1/2" thickness) is recommended between the 1st and 2nd tier.
  • Substantial condensation was noted on the roof and side panels of all three containers.  Testing of the wood pallets and lumber used for blocking and bracing found the wood to have elevated moisture contents of between 16% and 28%. This moisture is a concern because Calcium Carbide Class 4.3 is reactive with water.
  • Two (2) drum lid mechanical clamps were found to be partially dislodged.


Based on these stowage issues, the containers were rejected by the rail carrier.

We wish to alert Member's of the dangers of shipping this commodity. We recommend that shipping lines do not carry this cargo and if bookings are accepted, the bookings should only be accepted on a port to port basis. Due to this incident, several rail carriers will no longer accept this commodity. It is advised that Members who have bookings of this commodity that have not yet arrived at the port of discharge and are booked to be moved by rail, that the bookings are terminated at the port of discharge.



Source of Information:

George Radu

UK P&I (Americas)
Phone (+1) 415-343-0114



For Claims related matters, please use our team e mail boxes:

P&I: SanFrancisco.ukclub@thomasmiller.com (quoting vessel name & file ref.)

TT:  SanFrancisco.Claims@ttclub.com (quoting file ref.)

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