ASMA On the Hunt for Canister Culprits

Posted : 01/24/13 7:45 AM

Australia’s Maritime Safety Authority (ASMA) recently started inquiries into a series of canisters washed up on a beach in Queensland. It is alleged that the canisters contained aluminium phosphide, a deadly poison. The ASMA is currently seeking to determine whether the canisters are from a deliberate attempt at pollution or if they were the inadvertent result of a cargo breach. The charges associated with either would be severe since aluminium phosphide can be deadly to both human as well as animal life. The ASMA has collaborated with scientists to determine if it is possible that the canisters could be from groundings or hull breaches in the wider Pacific region using a complex system of drift modeling. The ASMA has also checked recent reports of cargo losses, but there have been no reports of a vessel losing this type of cargo. Aluminum phosphide is an inorganic compound which has industrial uses as a semiconductor or a fumigant. It is the latter of these that make it deadly. It has been used in rodenticides, insecticides, as well as a fumigant, which have led to deaths previously. Aluminium phosphide could be harmful to both mammals and marine life. Its use as a poison towards small mammalian animals makes it a danger towards humans in larger doses. It is critical that the problem is analyzed and the source is found as soon as possible. However, this is not a recent phenomenon. Canisters have been washing up on Australian beaches from Ayr to Ingham since February 2012, and it is assumed that these canisters may be from the same source. It is currently unclear where the source is located and ASMA is increasing its efforts to find the offender and bring charges against them. These canisters not only pose a risk to public health, but also pose a risk to marine life in and around the beaches where they were found. The aluminium phosphide inside these canisters can transform into the deadly phosphine gas on exposure to moisture or air. This makes the cargo extremely deadly and the authorities have warned beachgoers to stay away from the silver containers and report them as soon as possible. Biohazard containment may be needed when the source is found, but until such time, beachgoers should be wary of their surroundings and should not tamper with these deadly canisters in the interest of their own safety.