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Precis File
SHIP NAME: NCC Mekka KEY: NUM. ENTRIES: 6
source marinelog.com
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Norwegian chemical tanker specialist Odfjell reports that a crew member has died following an accident Friday involving the M/T NCC MEKKA. A second crew member is hospitalized and is in critical condition. According to Odfjell, there was an explosion in one of NCC MEKKA's cargo tanks. The incident occurred along the coast of Brazil after departing Santos. The ship had discharged part of a cargo of chemicals in Santos, Brazil and was proceeding to Aratu, Brazil to load cargo before continuing to the U.S. East Coast.

M/T NCC MEKKA has a crew of 27 persons. Three of whom are Norwegian, 23 Philippino and one from Latvia. M/T NCC MEKKA is a 37,272 dwt chemical tanker built in Norway in 1995. The ship is registered in Norway and classed by Det Norske Veritas (DNV). M/T NCC MEKKA is owned by National Chemical Carriers Ltd of Saudi Arabia, and operated commercially and managed by Odfjell ASA in Bergen, Norway.

The ship is now at anchorage outside Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. There is presently no danger for the ship, the remaining crew and cargo. Odfjell said on Saturday that the accident had not resulted in any pollution. A representative of the classification society was carrying out an inspection of the damages to the ship


source marinelink.com
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Odfjell has confirmed that second injured crewmember passed away last night. Since the accident onboard M/T NCC MEKKA he has been under intensive medical treatment at a specialist hospital in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A Maritime Enquiry was held on board M/T NCC MEKKA on June 9 while the ship was at anchor in Rio de Janeiro. The Enquiry was administered by the Norwegian General Consul in Brazil and attended by Maritime Investigator John Ramsoy from the Norwegian Maritime Directorate (NMD) and Odfjell's Risk Manager, Capt. Toralf Sorenes. Several witnesses were heard during the Enquiry and a survey of the area of the explosion was also carried out. At the time of the explosion cargo tank 1 center starboard was in the process of being cleaned and indications are that the explosion originated inside this tank. No breaches of procedures or failure of relevant equipment were found during the Enquiry and the following inspection of the area. During the Enquiry it became obvious that the crew had reacted swiftly and done an outstanding job with fire fighting and first aid. The fire was extinguished in a very short time and heat transfer and potential escalation of the fire into other tanks were avoided. The ship will stay in Rio de Janeiro for the next few days to carry out further inspections in order to establish what repairs are necessary. Odfjell is continuously working to improve the safety level on our ships. and we are now concentrating our efforts towards safety measures for cargo operations.


source ISIS News
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25 April 2005 18:23 [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (CNI)--Odfjell has accepted a $400,000 (Euro305,787/Nkr2.5m) fine issued by Hordaland Police District in Norway following the NCC Mekka chemical tanker explosion in June last year, in which two crew members lost their lives, CNI learned Monday. The police district said there had been "insufficient application of rules and regulations on the handling of inert gas systems onboard". Odfjell said it acknowledged that the directives in place at the time of the accident could have been more explicit. However, it added: "It is our opinion that this does not justify such penalty." It said in a statement that the fine is a reflection of the size of the company and that by accepting it, the company would avoid a trial.

The Norwegian transport and logistics group will now be looking to implement further steps to increase safety measures to provide clearer guidelines for its workers, a company spokesman told CNI. He emphasised that it has issued an internal body to review its safety standards and make the official guidelines more clear.


source GISIS Summary
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The ship was loaded with chemicals and was northbound in the South Atlantic. Good visibility, daylight, calm sea and wind force approximately 5-8 metres per second from West. The ship had discharged various cargoes including Paraffinic Solvent in Santos (Brazil) and had departed for Aratu. After one hour of tank cleaning of tank 1CS having contained Paraffinic Solvent, the aft fixed cleaning machine had stopped to rotate. Preparations had started to replace this unit with a portable cleaning machine. The first explosion took place at 1435 hrs local time in tank 1CS, and forced the bulkhead, deck and tank top out. The tank hatch was struck open and deformed. Soon thereafter a second and weaker explosion occurred in an adjacent tank 1CP loaded with Ethanol, and was probably caused by the first. The ethanol that had surfaced on the deck caught fire on the port tank deck and the fire extended all the way to the deck house. One able seaman was hit by the tank hatch of tank 1CS when the tank exploded. He was found later on, badly burnt, just behind the hatch. The Boatswain, also badly burnt, managed to move aft, where he was taken care of by the ship’s crew. The officer in charge of the navigational watch immediately set off the ship’s general emergency alarm, and fire-fighting operations were started without delay by using the foam monitors on the tank deck. At 1505 HRS the fire on deck was extinguished. Distress alerts were transmitted without delay and replies were received both from land-based stations and ships. The master received no response to his request for medical and helicopter assistance. Both involved seamen on deck lost their lives.


source GISIS Analysis of Flag State Report
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At 1435 hrs on 4th June 2004 the 37272dwt chemical tanker NCC Mekka was in the process of tank cleaning when a low pressure explosion occurred in tank 1CS which had previously carried parrafinic solvent. This was followed by another explosion in the adjacent tank 1CP which was fully loaded with ethanol. The deck was fractured in several places and the escaping ethanol caught fire, the fire spreading all the way aft to the deck house. The vessel was en-route from Santos to Aratu (Brazil). The crew extinguished the fire by 1505hrs, using the vessel’s foam monitors, and managed to bring the vessel to the Rio de Janeiro roadstead. One able seaman and the Boatswain were badly burned and subsequently died.

Water ballast tank no. 1 starboard was fully charged, while water ballast tank no.1 port was empty. Due to the explosion, cracks were formed between these tanks, and water ballast therefore ran over to the port tank. This contributed to a list of the ship to port of about 5 degrees. Cracks also formed between tanks 1CS and 1CP and between those two tanks and the water ballast tanks. This caused ethanol from 1CP to run down into the water ballast tanks and over into 1CS. There were bulges, but no punctures or cracks in the outer bottom and hull. Following emergency consultations with the company, the master decided to perform an emergency discharge (ethanol and water ballast) into the sea.

Water-driven rotary tank-washing machines were being used to wash tanks which had contained parrafinic solvent which from a product data sheet subsequently provided by the shipper was found to have a flash point of -40 deg C. Prior to the explosion the tanks had been subjected to a half-hour cold seawater wash, followed by a two-hour hot seawater wash at about 60 deg C. About 200 litres of detergent had then been added to the tank via the closed sampling inlet of a Butterworth hatch. 2 to 3 c.metres of fresh water was added via the cargo line system and a three hour washing programme commenced, using the fresh water/detergent at ambient temperature. This fresh water/detergent wash was in progress at the time of the explosion

Investigators considered various sources of ignition, including mechanical friction from the cleaning machines and/or the deepwell pump, electrical short circuit in tank monitoring systems and structural damages. All these were excluded based on information available and examinations carried out after the explosion. The conclusion was that there must have been a charged atmosphere in tank 1CS, and that a static discharge had taken place inside the tank. What led to the discharge was not clear but it was postulated that a static charge could have been created from the detergent-loaded water wash. The presence of human error could not be excluded, but nothing in particular was specified that could indicate such error.

Although the vessel was fitted with an oil burning inert gas generator the cargo tanks were not inerted at the time of the casualty. At the maritime inquiry, the chief mate stated that the inert gas system on board (which was based on oil combustion) was unacceptable to the charterers because of too low purity. However no explanation was given as to why nitrogen was not used for inerting or why, in the absence of an inerting medium the cargo was not rejected.

A data sheet (commodity information) that the NMI found available on board at the maritime inquiry did not specify whether paraffinic solvent (which is included in the category “naphtha” in MARPOL Annex I) was flammable, nor did it specify the flash point of the substance. There was no mention of whether such information had been requested. \ (The data sheet gave the product name as paraffinic solvent, shipping name: naphtha solvent). The NMI received another data sheet at the company office on 25 June. In this sheet it was stated that the flash point was -40° C, and that the substance was flammable.


source CTX
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It is interesting to compare the bland and slightly self-congratulary Odfjell press releases --- dutifully repeated by the industry press --- with the GISIS analysis of the Norwegian report. (The actual report is not publicly available, but it looks like it was an unusually decent one.) The primary cause was the failure to inert a tank carrying an extremely volatile lqiuid. for commercial reasons. Despite the press releases, this appears to have been standard practice on Odfjell ships. See Bow Mariner.