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Precis File
SHIP NAME: Monticello Victory KEY: NUM. ENTRIES: 5
source LMIU
type C
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Explosion, on fire May 31 1981 at Port Arthur Fire extinguished later same day.


source HOOKE
type A
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On May 31, 1981, while lying empty at Port Arthur, Texas, an explosion, followed by a fire occurred on board the American steam tanker Monticello Victory. Flames reaching 50 feet were reported to have erupted from her tanks. Heavy damage was sustained to the centre of the main deck, which was peeled back for 50 feet, the aft accommodation, the pump room and machinery, but there were no casualties to any of the 9 crewmen who were on-board at the time. With a hull and machinery value of $16m, the 20 year old Monticello Vicotry was declared a CTL and scrapped.


source TRIS
type C
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About 1340 on May 31, 1981, the U.S. tankship MONTICELLO VICTORY, which was in an idle status with a small maintenance crew on board and moored at an isolated berth in the Port Arthur, Texas, area, exploded and burned. The vessel had no cargo on board, but it was not gas free. At the time of the initial explosion in No.11 center cargo tank, welding was being conducted in the engineroom on the auxiliary bilge discharge line which extended up to a valve on the main deck. A path for flame propagation from the welding operation was found to exist, since the valve was found open with a hose attached, and a nearby Butterworth port to a cargo tank was open and without flame-screen protection. There were no deaths or serious injuries, but damage to the after cargo tanks and superstructure was estimated at $20 million. The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the accident was the failure of the crew to maintain the integrity of the cargo tanks, which had not been cleaned or gas freed, by allowing a Butterworth port into the No.11 center cargo tank to remain open without flame-screen protection, thereby permitting flammable gases to vent and accumulate on the after main deck until ignited. The probable source of ignition was the welding being conducted in the engineroom on the auxiliary bilge discharge line, which had probably become filled with a flammable gas-air mixture drawn from the open Butterworth port.


source Fairplay 19860327
type A
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On May 31, 1981 this ship -- which lacked IGS -- was at Port Arthur. She had been lying idle for a week, having discharged at Freeport two weeks earlier.

No attempt had been made to clean tanks or gas free prior to entering a state of temporary lay up. Following the explosion all the intact tanks were found to be in the inflammable range -- with 10-20 percent oxygen present.

Fate had caught up with Monticello Victory for the seeds of disaster had been present for seven years. Back in 1974, a special 2.5 inch auxiliary bilge line had been constructed to counter problems in disposing of accumulated oily water in the engine room bilges during prolonged periods in port and coastal waters.

This line enabled bilges to be pumped ashore or into a cargo tank by means of a flexible hose. It led from the bilge pumps though the engine room bulkhead via the cargo pumproom, terminating at a valved connection at the after end of the tank deck.

On arrival at Port Arthur, an attempt was made to discharge the engine room bilges into No 11 Center tank, using a flexible hose passed through an open Butterworth opening. This atempt failed due to the badly corroded state of the fixed auxiliary bilge discharge line in the engine room. However the hose was left connected with its other end either suspended in No 11 or lying ondeck very close to the open Butterwork aperture.

The valve was left open allowing free flow of flammable vapour from the cargo system to the engine room. It was a recipe for disaster which lacked only a source of ignition. This was provided a few days later, when efforts were made to repair the auxiliary bilge line in the engine room using cutting and welding equipment.

The flame front of the ignited gas travelled along the bilge line at detonation velocity, causing No 11 and successively, several adjacent tanks to erupt.


source CTX
type C
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NTSB report is NTIS PB82-157165 Assuming the Fairplay account is taken from this report.

A rare case where we have a reasonably complete story. Compare the standard, nearly useless LMIU entry, with the NTSB/Fairplay account.

A bilge discharge line through the pump room would be illegal. The correct way to do this is to go straight up on deck, and then forward to the tanks, with a hose, which is removed except when in use. The NTSB report indicates this was the case, and the crew had been too lazy to remove it. (Probably they intended to use it as soon as they got the holes in the line welded up.) Dont know where Fairplay got its info. For now assuming the NTSB version is correct.

50,000 ton American tanker not inerted, nearly 12 years after Macta et al, and 5 years after Sansinena. The USCG rules requiring big tankers with a keel laying after mid-1974 to have IGS did not apply to older ships.