Waterway reopens after vapor release at Port of Tacoma

The U.S. Coast Guard re-opened Tacoma’s Sitcum Waterway to commercial traffic late Thursday afternoon after the Tacoma Fire Department’s HazMat team completed its investigation of a reported chemical vapor at the Port of Tacoma’s APM Terminals on Sitcum Waterway.The report of the vapor release came in at 8:33 a.m. onboard the Axel Maersk container vessel.

The HazMat team responded to the reported release, along with a Foss Environmental cleanup team. At approximately 8:44 a.m., an Incident Command was set up at the terminal, headed by the Tacoma Fire Department. Other members of the Incident Command included the U.S. Coast Guard and APM Terminals.

A total of seven workers – six longshore and one shipping lane employee – who were working on or near the ship, were taken to four local hospitals (Tacoma General, St. Joseph’s, Madigan and Good Samaritan). They reported symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. All seven were released from the hospital by early Thursday afternoon.

By late Thursday morning, the Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Service closed Sitcum Waterway to all commercial vessel traffic as a precautionary measure.
By 2:20 p.m., the HazMat team found no indications of a chemical problem on board the ship turned over Incident Command to the U.S. Coast Guard. By late afternoon, the Coast Guard re-opened Sitcum Waterway to commercial vessels.

Maersk Sealand is now working with the U.S. Coast Guard, Foss Environmental and an industrial hygienist to conduct additional testing on the ship.

The Alex Maersk, which was built in 2002, is 1,154 feet long, and 140 feet wide, making it one of the largest container ships in the world. This is the vessel’s first call to the Port of Tacoma.