Vessel had completed loading a cargo of benzene into 12
cargo tanks. Near completion of loading the vessel was boarded
by a cargo surveyor (CS). The pumpman observed the CS taking
samples from the aftermost tanks and working forward.
Approximately 25 minutes after the last tank was loaded an
explosion occurred and fire developed near the forward part of
the cargo area. A general alarm was sounded, the foam
extinguishing system activated and the fire was extinguished in
several minutes by the Master and another crew member using deck
monitors. The No. 1 port cargo tank lid was blown off and other
superficial damage was noted on nearby structures and pipework.
The cargo surveyor was injured, provided first aid, and removed
by an ambulance.
A static charge had developed in the cargo tank prior to the
explosion and had not dissipated in the twenty minutes which
elapsed since topping off.
The CS used a metallic can attached to a man made fiber rope to
obtain samples which facilitated a discharge of static
electricity within the tank and resultant explosion.
The CS was unknowledgeable as to risks associated with the
equipment he was using and had not followed shipboard or other
Vessel crew members did not confer with the CS as to his methods
and equipment used to sample tanks.
There are no assurances that shore based service providers
like cargo surveyors may understand the risks associated with
their activities, nor may their operation and safety procedures
be adequate for a particular vessel or cargo.
A brief inquiry by a competent vessel deck officer into the
surveyor’s methods and equipment used during sampling may have
revealed inadequacies and prompted the use of safer methods and
The general workload and responsibilities of the Chief Mate
while completing the loading process may have contributed to his
inability to note the surveyor’s methods and equipment. Had he
done so, the casualty could have been prevented.
The CS failed to recognize risks in the methods and equipment he
chose to use.