The MS Polanica was a Polish designed freighter 407 feet long, 541/2 feet wide, 21 feet draft, powered by a MANN six cylinder diesel capable of 15.5 knots. It carries freight in "break bulk" as opposed to big containers typical of today. Break bulk means that small containers of freight are unloaded from pallets and packed into the ship's hold. The cargo - Naphthalene is a white solid chemical that is a feedstock chemical used in the manufacture of dyes, resins, insecticides and mothballs. It was shipped in burlap bags stacked in the hold of the ship. Polanica was the first ship from the Soviet Union to enter the US under a new trade agreement. The bags were labeled "Product of USSR"
MS Polanica's sister ship.
Black Smoke over Delaware (June 29, 1961)
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported the story based on information provided by Fire Commissioner George Hink. One hundred and ten longshoremen had been unloading bags of naphthalene at Pier 3, foot of Market St. Philadelphia (now Penns Landing). They had just left the ship for lunch break when the fire was reported at 12:05 PM. Flames rapidly roared above the ships superstructure. After fireboats pumped water on the blaze, the ship started to list toward the pier. Hink ordered firefighters to leave the ship because of the danger of capsize and ordered the ship to be cut loose and towed away from the pier (12:25 PM). The ship was towed to the mud flaps on the Camden side of the Delaware near the Pennsylvania - Reading Railroad ferry terminal. Firefighters were ordered aboard the vessel to fight the fire again and then evacuated when it threatened to capsize with all the water pumped aboard fighting the fire. Ten drums of arsenic in the next hold were also threatened by the fire. Fireboats from the city, Coast Guard base in Gloucester City and Navy base all fought the fire.
The MS Polanica on fire.
Hink declared the fire under control at 7:45 PM and stated that the blaze was confined to No. 2 and 3 holds and had stopped short of No. 4 hold that contained the arsenic. The ship ended up resting on the bottom on the mud flats half full of water. It was later raised and repaired.
The MS Polanica on fire.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer and Mike Hink
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