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Precis File
SHIP NAME: Esso Durham KEY: NUM. ENTRIES: 3
source MITCHELL
type A
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On 26th January, 1961, the Esso Durham left Fawley for Mena al Ahmadi but before reaching Gibraltar suffered a serious explosion which blew a hole in her side. It had been thought that the accident was a boiler blow-out but it was later identified as a gas explosion while cleaning tanks. Such was the force that the ship's sides in way of No. 4 tank were blown out between decks and below waterline.


source SN/Marconi Sahib
type A
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ESSO DURHAM was outward bound from Fawley after discharging a cargo of stabilised Arabian crude from Ras Tanura. The explosion occurred in No.4 tank and was luckily limited to that tank because nos 3 centre + 5 port, starboard and centre tanks were ballasted. Apparently an adapter plate had to be used for the Butterworth machines when used on no. 4 tanks because the tank was partially under the forrard accommodation. No. 4 centre had been cleaned and the port Butterworth had been removed. On 29th January the vessel was about 100 miles west of Gibraltar. At about 1345 a party of four ABs and one SOS started removing the Butterworth from the starboard deck opening of no.4 centre tank. The carrier for the hose had a wing nut missing and while being removed the other wing nut and the hing pin came loose and the carrier fell into the tank. One of the seamen reported hearing a thump as it appeared to hit something on the way down. There was a flash and a rumble and "the party round the opening prudently decided to run forward and started to do so". There were at least three explosions. The fore and aft bulkheads seperating no.4 centre tank from the no.4 wing tanks were blown outwards and the shell plating above the waterline in both wing tanks was blown outboard. The main deck above no.4 tanks was bulged upward with some tearing of the deck plates. The bulkhead to nos. 3 + 5 were bulged and split. The view from the bridge was completely obscured by thick black smoke and flames from the aftereffects of the explosions. I sailed with the second mate that was on the bridge at the time and, having just recovered from being blown up on the ESSO PLYMOUTH, he left the bridge in a hurry telling the cadet and helmsman to keep up. Somewhere there are pictures of the damage because the second mate, who was Master of the "World's Favourite Tanker" when I met him, had copies. The damage was spectacular and the bridge front looked as if it had been machine gunned as the rivets were shot at it.

Most of the above is from the "Report of Court (No.8028) s.s. "Esso Durham" O.N. 300766".

"20. The court has considered a number of pos- sible causes of this casualty and has come to the conclusion that the most probable cause of the first explosion was that the cast brass hose carrier in No. 4 centre tank fell off the Butterworth hose after leaving the tubular rail while being removed from the tank at the conclusion of tank washing in that tank and in its fall struck a magnesium anode, thereby causing an incendive spark which ignited gas in the tank and that the subsequent explosions and fire resulted from such first explosion."


source CTX
type A
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She was cut into two halfs, both halfs were towed to the yard, and put back together with a new mid-section slightly larger midsection.

Brass is supposed to be non-sparking, but maybe brass against magnesium is an exception.

This accident would not happen today. There would be no need to open the B/W plate Also magnesium anodes have been illegal since the late 70's.