Lack of Proper Safety Procedures Leads To Barge Explosion

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The National Transportation Safety Board has issued a marine accident report detailing the investigation of explosion of barge IB1940.

The Incident

About 0930 on November 4, 2019, an explosion occurred aboard the moored tank barge
IB1940 at the Illinois Marine Towing Heritage Slip on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal in Lemont, Illinois, about 25 miles from Chicago.

The IB1940’s cargo of acetone had been unloaded, and the barge was being prepared for cleaning at the time of the explosion. No injuries or pollution were reported.

The barge was declared a total constructive loss, valued at $1,750,000.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the
explosion aboard the barge IB1940 was the company’s incomplete procedures that did not
incorporate the safety instructions included in the Facility Operations Manual regarding the
electrical bonding of air movers to barges.

This resulted in an unbonded air mover being operated in a cargo tank with residual acetone, thereby causing a static electrical discharge, which ignited flammable vapors in the tank.

Measures Taken

Following the accident, Illinois Marine Towing updated its standard operating procedure for liquid barge strip-and-blow cleanings to a 13-page document that includes instructions for

  • stripping tanks,
  • verifying that all residual product has been removed from tanks,
  • inspecting air movers before leaving the shop, and
  • ensuring the bonding strap is attached and tested for electrical continuity between the air mover horn and the bonding clamp.

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Source: National Transportation Safety Board 

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