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Precis File
SHIP NAME: Betelgeuse KEY: NUM. ENTRIES: 7
source SIS83
type D
volume
material
dead 50
link

report hull crack, then fire and exp, killed 50,


source Disaster at Whiddy Island, Banty, Co, Cork
type D
volume
material
dead 50
link

Report of Tribunal of Inquiry clearly documents appalling wastage in permanent ballast tanks. This tribunal was led by Justice Declan Costello. Despite being permanent ballast they were uncoated. Ship was classed by Bureau Veritas, owned and operated by Total, French flag. At second special survey in summer of 1977, BV passed structure that in places was over 50% wasted. Also did not replace totally wasted anodes at the time, because Total figured they were going to sell the ship.

Ship had no Loadicator.

Cracks from cargo tank to port permanent ballast tank repaired with resin on several occaision.

Fire started with explosions in both permanent ballast tanks. Tribunal thinks ship failed in sag from buckling iwo permanent ballast tank. Thinks they were ballasting the permanent ballast tanks at the time, but no one involved in this operation, onboard or at terminal, survived.

Pictures show horrible corrosion in permanent ballast tank, stringer detached from bulkheads, and totally bare anode wires.


source OSCH
type A
volume 14720B
material Arabian crude
dead
link

In the early afternoon of January 8, 1979, the tanker Betelgeuse exploded at the offshore pier of the Gulf Oil Terminal at Whiddy Island in Bantry Bay, Ireland. The tanker broke in two and settled in 130 feet of water with 300,000 barrels of oil remaining onboard. The fire burned throughout the day. During the night the fire was extinguished and the stern section sank completely. Approximately 14,720 barrels of oil leaked from the vessel, 3,680 barrels of which impacted the shoreline.

The Mixed Arabian crude oil contained in the vessel had an API gravity of about 36.5, and a viscosity of 23 centistokes at 20 degrees C. The oil that was released from the tanker burned as it leaked until the fire went out late on January 8. On January 9, a slick began to form, and oil impacted the east shore of Bantry Bay and Reenydonagan Point on Whiddy Island. Inspections revealed that 37 barrels of oil per hour was leaking from the wreck. Oil leaked at this rate for a week. On January 12, the oil impacted the north and south shores of Bantry Bay. By the next day the oil had spread as far west as Castle Townbere on the north shore of the bay, and League Point on the south shore. Bear Island was also impacted.

Cleanup operations were organized by the Cork County Council. Operations included the manual removal of oil, and the spreading of hay to absorb oil on the shoreline. Suction operations were also conducted on the shore. Booms contained the oil leaking from the tanker. Contained oil was treated with dispersants applied from planes, and was skimmed with a Gulf Oil Company Bay skimmer. Boom was placed across the mouth of the Glengariff Harbor to prevent oil from entering it.

Undamaged tanks were lightered using floating hoses running to the shore facilities.

The bow section of the Betelgeuse was salvaged by L. Smit and Company. On February 21, it was towed to sea by the tug Smit-Lloyd 107. The bow was sunk at 50 40 N, 012 04 W on February 23. Salvage operations continued throughout the year. Part of the midsection was raised on August 30. The rest of the midsection was raised in December. The stern was raised on July 1, 1980. The midsection and the stern were scrapped.


source ETC
type D
volume 197453BT
material Light Arabian crude
dead
link


source CEDRE
type D
volume 40000T
material Light Arabian crude
dead 49
link

According to the CEDRE account, the ship originally had 74,000 tons of Arab Heavy and 40,000 tons of Arab Light on board. The casualty occured after the Heavy had been discharged but before the Light. If true, indicates happened at change over.


source NEWTON
type D
volume
material
dead
link

Claims ship was not inerted, p 162.


source CTX
type D
volume 40000T
material C
dead 50
link

CEDRE paper has the spill at 28014T but the CEDRE description says 40000T. OECD has the spill at 27000T. Mainly a definitional issue, was the oil recoved from the intact tanks part of the spill? A strict interpretation of the CTX definition says it is. Hence CTX uses the CEDRE number. Interesting that OSCH does not even mention the huge loss of life.

Tribunal report makes it clear this was a horrible ship with a horrible owner. 10 years after Mactra, this big tanker was not inerted. Permanent ballast tanks should always be coated; but, if you are going to go without coating, you must carefully maintain the anodes and keep the tanks pressed up when they are ballasted. Total not only did neither, but they saved a few tens of thousands of dollars by not renewing the anodes at the second special survey. The pictures of the corrosion are disgusting. Moreover Total was fully aware of this corrosion having commissioned a set of thickness measurements which came in with numbers way above the very generous maximum allowable by class. Veritas claimed they never saw this report but they certainly knew the tanks were in terrible condition.

Total tried to claim the initial cause was a fire at the terminal. But the only evidence they offered for this was that the terminal despatcher was not in the control room where he normally should have been, a fact which Gulf, the terminal owner, tried to cover up.

The Tribunal may be right that the hull failed first by buckling on the deck in way of the permanent ballast tanks, and then caught fire. But CTX believes that it is at least as likely that the initial cause was a cargo leak into one of the non-inerted, midships permanent ballast tanks and those vapors were ignited. Both this ship and her sister Casiopee had a history of such leaks, improperly repaired. In fact, the ship reported a "leakage of oil" on the leg from Portugal to Bantry Bay and was told to divert to Brest, but then apparently the crew told Total, they had things under control, and the ship turned back to Banty Bay. Just about the only kind of small internal leak that a crew can spot underway loaded is a leak into a permanent ballast tank.

It really doesn't matter. Either way Total and Veritas should have been charged with the deaths of 50 people, and everybody involved should have gone to jail. As it was, both Total and Bureau Veritas got off scot free.