On 14 December 2004, the vessel discharged a cargo of Reformate.
This cargo, which is a dangerous and flammable liquid,
is used as a base material in the production of gasoline.
Whilst on a ballast voyage, the vessel sustained an explosion
in her cargo length area on 15 December 2004.
The flame, which started in one of her cargo tanks
during tank cleaning operations, spread to adjoining
tanks, igniting flammable gases inside.
This resulted in almost all the deck plating being blown off
and the side shell plating holed resulting in tank flooding.
Both the bosun and two other sailors,
who were on deck at the time of the explosion, went missing.
Eventually, the fire was brought under control
but the vessel sustained a serious list and subsequently foundered.
Pollution was also recorded as a result of fuel oil spillage from
1. Although not definite, it is presumed
that the steam nozzle used in the tank cleaning
may have created a static electrical discharge in an explosive atmosphere;
2. Gas-freeing period lasted only 1.5 hours resulting
in a lack of air changes inside the cargo tanks;
3. Subsequent gas testing was only planned to be conducted
through the oil-tight hatch in the aft part of each
tank rather than in other locations
such as in the middle or forward sections of the tank;
4. Whilst the response time for the gas detector (with a pipe length of 20 m)
was approximately 34 seconds, the chief officer assumed that the
response time was instead 15 seconds
(which corresponds to a 1 m sampling pipe);
5. The vessel was not fitted with an inert gas system.
One needs to highlight the importance of
adequate use of gas measuring equipment
instruments, which are capable to measure
gas in various tank atmosphere conditions.
Another important factor relates to the
dangers of steam cleaning due to static
electrical discharges. Established guidelines
in the industry caution about the dangers of:
- mist cloud generation inside the cargo
tank, which may be electrostatically charged;
- levels of charging, which may be
much higher when steam is introduced
(in comparison with water washing);
- less time periods to reach maximum
charge levels in comparison with water washing; and
- capability of steam disturbance to release
gases resulting in flammable pockets build-up.
The report reflects multiple failures in the
decision-making process of both the master
and the chief officer.