Gisis has a nice summary of the USCG report.
The USCG link is the official report and it is a good one.
This chemical tanker was carrying a cargo of Saudi Arabian MTBE.
She had discharged her wing tanks at New York,
but the center tanks were still loaded.
It appears she was proceeding to the Chesapeake
to discharge the rest of the cargo.
The ship was equipped with an inert gas system,
but it apparently was never used on this voyage.
This seems to be standard operating procedure on this ship.
Upon leaving New York,
the Master ordered all the wing tanks opened
and begain stripping the tanks via lowering
air driven pumps into the gas dangerous space.
The crew did this with the aid of Scuba gear.
This procedure was extremely dangerous and illegal.
It was exacerbated by problems with the pump
and problems with the eductors.
At about 1800 on 2004-02-28,
an explosion occured forward,
followed by a series of other explosions.
The ship sank at 1937 with the loss of 21 lives.
The USCG was unable to determine the exact source
The USCG report correctly blames the Captain
for following a horribly dangerous tank cleaning procedure.
But it does not ask the question why?
Why did he not strip the wing tanks in normal fashion
using the eductors with a nitrogen blanket.
Something must not have been working.
As built, the ship was equipped with a nitrogen generator
but several years before the explosion,
the nitrogen generation system was disabled with DNV approval.
Due to weather delays crossing the Atlantic,
the ship was already two days behind schedule,
when she arrived at New York.
The master had very little time before arriving in the Chesapeake.
The master behaved badly after the explosion.
He failed to activate any kind of distress signal,
failed to lead any sort of organized abandonment,
and jumped overboard with a large portion
of his crew still aboard and alive.
He did not survive.
Nor did any of the three Greek senior officers on board.
There appears to have been no rapport between the
three Greeks and the rest of the crew who were Phillippinos.
This is quite common among many Greek (and other European) owners,
The only officer who showed any leadership
was the Phillippino 3rd mate,
who sent the distress signal,
attempted to organize the crew on the stern,
and paddled the life raft to pick up several survivors.
The owner of course claimed total ignorance
of the fact that the Master was following procedures
which were inconsistent with all the ship's paperwork.
But the crew's reaction to the orders
makes it clear the procedure was not all that unusual.
This was a chemical tanker so using IG is not legally required.
One of the report's recommendations is that inerting
be required of all chemical tankers.
But the Commandant over-ruled this on commercial grounds
pointing out that C02 could drive some cargoes off specification,
and that some cargos use inhibitors that require oxygen to work.
The fact that this ship was double bottomed and SBT
appears to have had no impact on the casualty.
Smit site says ship sank in 80 m deep water,
and claims that the bunkers were recovered by POLREC system.
The Tromedy puts a lot of emphasis on paperwork,
and checking that the paperwork is in order.
If it isn't, a ship is often detained.
But does almost nothing to ensure that the
paperwork corresponds to reality.
When egregious mismatches like this
are discovered, there must be a penalty,
otherwise owners will just keep generating meaningless paper work.
The US should have banned all Bow ships from American waters
for a significant amount of time.