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Precis File
SHIP NAME: Marpessa KEY: NUM. ENTRIES: 2
source HOOKE
type A
volume
material B
dead 2
link

...., while returning on a ballast voyage from Rotterdam to the Persian Gulf to pick up a second load, a fire and explosion occured in No 5 center tank, when she was in the final stages of cleaning her tanks in accordance with normal procedures about 100 miles NNW of Dakar in lat 16.05N, long 17.48W at about midday on December 12, 1969. The explosion demolished all deck lines and it proved impossible to fight the fire, which lasted for about 12 hours before subsiding. As a result of the fire and/or initial explosion, the engine room, pump room and No 5 tanks became flooded.

During the following two days the Marpessa settled slowly by the stern, the bulkheads eventually giving way under the enormous stresses to which they were by then subjected. She sank stern first during the early hours of December 15, 50 miles NNW of Dakar.


source CTX
type D
volume
material B
dead 2
link

Marpessa, a brand new Shell VLCC, on her first ballast voyage was tank cleaning off Africa when an explosion occured in one of her center tanks, killing two crew and injuring others. Fire lines were damaged in the explosion. They could not put out the fire. Bulkheads began giving way; she sank stern first on 15th December.

This was one of the three big tank cleaning explosions in December 1969, which led Shell to conclude that static electrictity created by the tank cleaning jet of water was the probable source of ignition, See Mactra and Kong Haakon VII. This in turn resulted (eventually) in the requirement for inerting.

The flooding of 5C, Pump room and engine room is a bit puzzling. Thanks to Karsten Petersen, we have a photo taken from a distance of the ship burning. Clear skies, wind no more than Force 4, no big waves. The VLCC is on even keel, but much deeper than normal ballast. At a guess, the explosion somehow holed 5C in the bottom, and probably the longitudinal bulkheads as well. Then the flooding worked its way aft. But we need more info. It is difficult to sink a VLCC in ballast in this manner.