Sixteen people were taken to hospital early this morning after pitch fume was released on to Tiwai Wharf.
New Zealand Aluminium Smelters general manager Ryan Cavanagh said in a statement the incident happened at 2.30am.
While metal was being loaded onto the Rakiura Maru, the pitch tank system on the ship appeared to have vented and fumes drifted on to the wharf, the statement says.
Pitch was not being unloaded at the time.
Some team members coughed, felt nauseous and vomited after inhaling the fumes.
All members of the metal load-out team, seven stevedores, five truck drivers and four smelter team members, were taken to Southland Hospital for observation.
They have all left hospital and have been cleared to return to work.
Hospital protocol requires that anyone who has come into contact with pitch fume must be decontaminated before entering hospital, Cavanagh said.
NZAS will be investigating the incident to prevent it happening again.
Fire service assistant area manager Julian Tohiariki said three appliances and 10 staff attended the incident, and set up two decontamination sites: one at Tiwai Wharf and another at Southland Hospital.
A doctor also went through the decontamination shower, and three ambulance officers went through low-level decontamination as a precaution, he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News