(http://www.MaritimeCyprus.com) The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) issued the report of its investigation of the explosions on the bulk carrier Nortrader off Plymouth on 13 January 2017.
The ship, carrying a cargo of unprocessed incinerator bottom ash (U-IBA), suffered 2 explosions in quick succession. The first explosion was in the forecastle store and the second in the cargo hold. The chief engineer, in the forecastle store at the time, suffered second degree burns requiring 4 months to recover. The vessel suffered extensive damage putting it out of service for over 3 months. U-IBA is not included in the schedule of authorized cargoes of the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code. Appropriate tests could have identified the propensity of the cargo, U-IBA, to release hydrogen when wet.
At 1447 on 13 January 2017, the Antigua & Barbuda registered dry cargo vessel Nortrader sufered two explosions in quick succession while anchored in Plymouth Sound, England.
The vessel was loaded with a cargo of 2333 tonnes of unprocessed incinerator bottom ash. The first explosion was in the forecastle store and the second in the cargo hold. The chief engineer, who was inside the forecastle store at the time, suffered second degree burns and was airlifted to a nearby hospital. He was repatriated to Ukraine after 12 days and was declared ft for duty 4 months later. The vessel suffered extensive damage and was out of service until 20 April.
The MAIB investigation established that the explosions were caused by the ignition of hydrogen gas released from the cargo. Prior to this accident there had been 34 similar shipments of incinerator bottom ash from Plymouth to the Netherlands and, despite it not being listed in the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code, no steps had been taken to seek approval from the competent authorities for its carriage. The investigation also found that the testing protocols in place for assessing if the waste was capable of producing flammable gases were inappropriate and inadequate.
The MAIB has published a safety flyer to disseminate the lessons from this accident and improve awareness of the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code. The MAIB has also provided the Maritime and Coastguard Agency with the results of laboratory tests and technical research conducted during the investigation.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has set up tripartite agreements between the UK, the Netherlands and several other administrations for the safe carriage of incinerator bottom ash and proposed its inclusion in the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has been recommended to update the Merchant Shipping (Carriage of Cargoes) Regulations to refer to the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code and to work with the Environment Agency to ensure that test protocols for the classifcation of cargoes are ft for purpose.
Recommendations have also been made to Nortrader’s owners to review their safety management system to reflect the requirements of the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code.
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For the supporting Annexes of this investigation, click here.
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