Case Study: Cargo tank explosion and fire on chemical tanker Stolt Groenland

Case Study: Cargo tank explosion and fire on chemical tanker Stolt Groenland

Last updated on July 26th, 2021 at 07:36 am

On 28 September 2019, a cargo tank containing styrene monomer on board the Cayman Islands-registered chemical tanker Stolt Groenland ruptured due to runaway polymerisation. The catastrophic rupture released a large quantity of vapour to the atmosphere, and it subsequently ignited. Fire-fighting efforts by the emergency services took over six hours and involved more than 700 personnel and 117 units of fire trucks, pumps and fire tugs.

Midships deckhouse damage

Safety Issues

  • the styrene monomer was affected by other heated cargo tanks
  • heat transfer from other cargoes was not fully appreciated
  • the styrene monomer temperature was not monitored


A recommendation (2021/122) has been made to Stolt Tankers B.V. aimed at ensuring the wider marine chemical sector benefits from the lessons learned from the Stolt Focus incident and research initiatives that were carried out as a result of this accident.

The Internantional Chamber of Shipping and INTERTANKO have been recommended (2021/118 and 2021/119) to promulgate our report to their members.

Recommendations (2021/117, 2021/120 and 2021/121) have also been made to the Cayman Island Shipping Registry , the Chemical Distribution Institute and Plastics Europe (Styrene Producers Association). These are intended to assist in ensuring that the guidance provided in certificates of inhibitor and styrene monomer handling guides is consistent and achievable given the limitations of equipment and testing facilities on board ships.

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