MOBILE, Ala. — The U.S. Coast Guard released preliminary findings after launching an investigation into the cause of the April 24, 2013 explosions and fire on board two Kirby tank barges that were moored at the Oil Recovery Company Marine Terminal in Mobile.
While the investigation is still ongoing, Coast Guard Sector Mobile investigators have made the following preliminary findings:
On the evening of April 24, Oil Recovery Company personnel were conducting tank-cleaning operations on both tank barges. The barges previously held natural gasoline, a flammable liquid and a first distillation of crude oil. The tank-cleaning processes involved pumping as much cargo residue as possible from the cargo tanks and using mechanical blowers to ventilate and dry the tanks of remaining oil and flammable vapors. During this process, Oil Recovery Company personnel discovered a malfunctioning mechanical blower, which required them to shut down all the blowers to effect repairs. In shutting down the blowers, flammable vapor from the cargo tanks accumulated around the tank barges and settled on the water’s surface next to the barges.
“There was a certain amount of a explosive atmosphere that was present during the tank cleaning operations,” said Commander Scott Muller, U.S. Coast Guard Sector Mobile.
“In the end, our primary focus is to prevent reoccurrence of similar type incidents so quite frankly we try to keep an open mind. Given the evidence and given the events we try to find areas of improvement,” said Commander Muller.
A final report will be issued by the Coast Guard after the evidence is reviewed.
Blog post by barge injury lawyer Gordon, Elias & Seely, LLP