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Precis File
SHIP NAME: Surf City KEY: NUM. ENTRIES: 6
source LMIU
type C
volume
material
dead 2
link

Explosions, on fire, holed, abandoned in 25 43 N 55 18 E Feb 22 1990 Partially submerged Taken in tow Feb 26 Drifting Mar 02 Fire extinguished Mar 06 Anchored in 25 29 N 56 45 E prev Mar 18 Arrived Singapore Mar 14 1991 for rebuilding Two crew dead Sold.


source USCG, Federal Register, Vol 60, No 213, 1995-11-03 page 55924
type A
volume
material
dead
link

The major explosion aboard the US tankship MT Surf City was caused by poor tank entry precautions and undetected bulkhead deterioration between a cargo tank and a ballast tank.


source FSI
type A
volume
material
dead
link

The casualty was caused by the structural failure of the No 4 starboard ballast tank bulkhead. The failure caused naptha from an adjacent cargo tank to leak into the ballast tank and produce an explosive atmosphere, which was subsequently ignited by a source which the Board was unable to pinpoint.


source MSIS
type D
volume 7.5MMG
material gasoil and naptha
dead 2
link

MSIS says 3.5 MM gal of gas-oil and 4.0 MM gal of naptha. Puts location at Dubai.


source NTSB
type A
volume 196985 bbls
material gasoil and naptha
dead 2
link

On the morning of the accident, the chief mate indicated to his watchstanders that he intended to check out the inoperable draft sensors in the bottom of ballast tanks No 4P and 4S. The C/M directed two AB's to install air blowers on the tank openings. When he tasked the seamen top install the ventilators, the C/M did not advise them to follow any special precautions or be alert for the smell of fumes, Neitehr the C/M nor the Master was on the main deck during the tank opening operations and they did not oversee the ventilation of the ballast tanks.

According to eye witness accounts, the actions of the master and C/M indicate that they probably became aware of the contamination in the 4S ballast tank whenthey initially looked into the tank. Although the master and the C/M recognized that the tank atmosphere was not safe for entry without a breathing apparatus, witnesses did not see anyone test the tank atmosphere for flammability or safe levels of oxygen. After one descent intothe tank, the C/M retruned to the deck. He and the master then removed the fans and used mirror(s) to reflect sunlight into the tank in an attempt to locate the naptha leak

The naptha leak into the No 4S ballast tank begain sometime between February 18 and 22, 1990, after the liquid hydrocarbon was loaded into cargo tanks Nos 5S, 5C, and 6C and/or during the tank ship's passage through the Persian Gulf. Enough naptha leaked intot he starboard ballast tank so that when the vapors mixed with the air injected into the starboard ballast tank, the naptha atmosphere reached the explosive range.

Naptha could only have entered the 4S as a result of either a failure in the ballast system piping or a failure in a ballast tank bulkhead. Post-accident examinations conducted by the CG revealed that the weld around the ballast pipe penetration into 4S, the ballast piping, and the branch valve was tight; no evidence of naptha was present. Thus, the ballast system piping did not provide a path for naptha leakage into the tank.

The Safety Board also considered fractures resulting from metal fatigue, stress concentrations, corrosion, and laterally symmetric damage in the No 4P and 4S tanks as a source of naptha entry into the tank.

Testimony indicated that in the Surf City, [fatigue] working appears to have had the greatest effect inthe No 4P and 4S ballast tanks. The conditions of bulkhead and structural strength members in the No 4P and 4S ballast tanks, as reported by Coast Guard inspectors and ABS surveyors before the accident, indicate that the aft area of the ballast tanks was an area of concentration within the cargo block. The Coast Guard hull inspector testified that the fractures he found in the transverse web frames, longitudinal stiffeners, and the upper horizontal girders were stress fractures.

When the former Chief Mate inspected the Surf City's ballast tanks in Jauary, he reported numerous new stess fractures, some along previous weld repairs, in the girders, frames and stiffeners in 4P and 4S. These new fractures had occurred less than 1 year following the previous ballast tank inspections and shipyard repairs in February, 1989. He also found a previously unreported unreported bulkhead patch in the NO 4S ballast tank on the aft bulkhead in an area corresponding to the bulkhead fracture found in the 4P ballast tank. The testimony and reports from the previous chief mate, teh AB's, and the Coast Guard indicate that the type and locations of fracturing found in the 4P were laterally symmetrical to those found in 4S.


source CTX
type C
volume 31.3MM liters
material G
dead 2
link

In other words, the 4P and 4S ballast tanks were full of cracks and making new cracks at least as fast as KOTC could patch them up. This was well known by the owner (KOTC), ABS, and the USCG, which did nothing about them, except weld them up every once in a while.

The NTSB sent a politely worded letter to IACS asking them to do something about the cracking. As far as CTX can tell, the letter had absolutely no impact.

She had been the Kuwaiti flag Umm al Aish which had been re-flagged to obtain USN protection. If she had stayed Kuwaiti, there would have been no real investigation and we would have no cause info. USCG was in a bit of a bind, difficult politically to reject a Kuwaiti ship in the middle of the war, just after Reagan had promised to protect her. So they didn't.

Since this casualty took place during the Gulf War, most reports incorrectly have this US flag ship being hit by a missle. Other data bases simply say explosion.