Proceedings magazine is a communication tool for the Coast Guard's Marine Safety & Security Council. Each quarterly magazine focuses on a specific theme of interest to the marine industry.
Issue link: http://uscgproceedings.epubxp.com/i/707823
68 Proceedings Summer 2016 www.uscg.mil/proceedings proceeded to safety, aided the injured, and contacted emer- gency response agencies. Within the next half-hour, local fire and police departments were dispatched to the scene. Coast Guard Sector Mobile watchstanders notified search and rescue assets and estab- lished a safety zone on the water surrounding the facility. First responders arrived and rendered aid to the injured. At approximately 8:57 p.m., another explosion occurred on the tank barges, damaging nearby structures and first responder vehicles. Emergency responders evacuated everyone from the neighboring buildings and evacuated vessels within a one-mile radius. Coast Guard Sector Mobile personnel prohibited vessel traffic within the safety zone, closing the mouth of the Mobile River. The barges continued to burn, and several explosions occurred over the next six hours. All told, three work- ers — one deckhand, one radio technician, and the facility PIC — sustained serious burn injuries. The fire also caused substantial damage to the towing vessel and destroyed both tank barges. Investigation Findings The following morning, shortly after sunrise, the fire burnt itself out, and the Mobile Fire Department declared the area safe for responders. Sector Mobile's pollution response and marine casualty investigation personnel attended the scene. Investigators noticed a sheen and discoloration on the water's surface in the barge slip. They soon found a 500- gallon die- sel tank turned upside-down on the edge of the pier and the prime mover engine on one of the barges destroyed, pouring its oily contents onto the dock. Investigation personnel found the fire and explosions caused significant damage to both tank barges. All cargo tanks were ruptured or severely deformed, with deck plat- ing over two cargo tanks on each barge completely peeled over. One 90-foot section of deck plating landed on the shore facility more than 100 feet away. All cargo tank hatches and openings on the barges were found opened. Investigators also found non-intrinsically safe (spark- producing) tools on the deck of the serviced barges, and mechanical blowers that remained on board were unbonded with incorrect bonding wire. Upon further investigation, they discovered the tank cleaning facility workers had not maintained adequate means of two-way communication with vessel operators. Coast Guard investigators and the fire marshal examined the towing vessel that pulled into the dock for fire damage. Shortly after, flammable vapors in the towing vessel's engine room ignited, starting a fire that then spread back to the moored tank barges that were undergoing tank cleaning operations. The immediate surrounding area erupted into an explosion and fire. The fire ignited the flammable vapors around and inside the cargo tanks, causing the cargo tanks to explode, and flames engulfed both barges as well as the immediate area. Abandon Ship The two towing vessels at the facility sounded their general alarms and commenced emergency actions. The crew of the towing vessel that pulled up to the facility abandoned their vessel, while the crew of the tank barges now engulfed in flames disengaged their towing vessel from the barges and proceeded to safety. Shoreside and company personnel and the crew from the recently moored towing vessel quickly Barge damage followng the fire and explosion. All images from the marine investigation report.