387 - 11/04 - Chemical Drum Explosion in Engine Room Workshop

We have recently been made aware of a fatal explosion on a chemical tanker dedicated to the carriage of methanol. The vessel was carrying drums of methanol for spraying cargo tanks in preparation for a first methanol loading. One of these drums (reportedly empty) was being cut (with an angle grinder) in the engine room workshop when it exploded.

An engine boy and motorman had requested an empty drum from the bosun to be converted into a bin for filter cleaning. Instead of using one provided by the bosun they had found a drum on deck which had previously contained methanol which suited them better. This drum had reportedly been rinsed once with fresh water and then used as a platform for painting. The drum had been used in this capacity for over a month and a half.

Apparently the two men lowered the drum to the E/R workshop, without any water rinsing, and the engine boy proceeded to use a pneumatic grinder to cut the drum. Evidence on the drum shows that they had barely penetrated the drum when it exploded from the bottom, owing to the explosive atmosphere within the drum (the drum was sealed with both its caps on, see picture below).

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Thomas Miller

Date23/03/2009

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