18 March 2004 20:33 [Source: ICIS news]
WASHINGTON (CNI)--A US Coast Guard (USCG) chemical transport advisory panel said Thursday it plans to re-examine the maritime handling of chemicals after an explosion sank the Bow Mariner last month, killing 21 crewmen.
The Singapore-flagged tanker was carrying about 11 000 tonne of industrial ethanol when it exploded during its voyage from New York to Houston, Texas. The tanker had discharged 20 000 tonne of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) at New York before departing for Houston.
The cause of the explosion, which happened around 50 miles off the coast of Chincoteague, Virginia, is still under investigation.
USCG Commander Bob Hennessy, chief of hazardous material standards, told CNI today that its Chemical Transportation Advisory Committee (CTAC) has recommended that the USCG identify lessons to be learned from a spate of methanol-related tanker accidents in recent months.
The chemical transport panel is made up of chemical and transportation industry officials who advise the USCG on monitoring hazardous materials moving in and out of US ports.
Hennessy said the Coast Guard will look at casualty reports and data that could identify broader trends on how tanker crews are handling hazardous chemicals. The USCG plans to offer recommendations based on its findings, but Hennessy said no date for completing the internal inquiry has been set.
"Most marine casualties have something to do with the handling of chemicals," Hennessy said. "It usually falls back on the human-error factor. It’s not that they aren’t aware of the hazards of the chemicals."
The Coast Guard is in the process of naming an ad-hoc group to examine recent maritime chemical accidents causing casualties. Part of that process will be to consider ways to improve data and establish a more useful reporting system, Hennessy said, but he added that USCG has not yet decided the exact scope of the inquiry.
Asked whether USCG will work with other federal agencies with jurisdiction over chemical-related accidents, such as the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), Hennessy said "we’re probably going to reach out to other sources of casualty data."
Paul Book, CTAC chairman and an executive with American Commercial Barge Line in Jeffersonville, Indiana, said distributing useful information on the safety hazards of shipping liquid cargo is a central goal.
"If it’s even as simple as just sharing information and raising awareness, it would be worth the review and expanding that awareness," Book said.
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