Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation M-92-011
Details
Synopsis: ON FEBRUARY 20, 1990, THE REFLAGGED 760-FOOT-LONG U.S. TANK SHIP SURF CITY, LOADED WITH NAPHTHA AND AUTOMOTIVE DIESEL OIL, DEPARTED KUWAIT EN ROUTE TO DISCHARGE PORTS IN SOUTHERN EUROPE. AT 1012 ON FEBRUARY 22, THE MASTER AND THE CHIEF MATE WERE STANDING AT THE NO.4 STARBOARD WATER BALLAST TANK ACCESS TRUNK WHEN AN EXPLOSION OCCURRED IN THE TANK. THE TANK AND AREA AFT TO THE DECKHOUSE ON THE STARBOARD SIDE WERE IMMEDIATELY ENGULFED IN FLAMES. THE CREW ABANDONED SHIP IN THE PORT LIFEBOAT AND WERE RESCUED BY THE U.S. NAVY GUIDED MISSILE FRIGATE USS SIMPSON (FFG-56) AT 1053. U.S. NAVAL VESSELS RECOVERED THE MASTER'S REMAINS BUT THE CHIEF MATE IS MISSING AND PRESUMED DEAD. THE FIRE BURNED FOR 2 WEEKS AND 196,985 BARRELS OF THE 606,215 BARRELS OF CARGO WERE LOST. THE VALUE OF THE LOADED CARGO WAS $12.88 MILLION AND ITS SALVED VALUE WAS $6.5 MILLION. THE VESSEL, VALUED AT $30 MILLION BEFORE THE ACCIDENT WAS SOLD IN ITS DAMAGED CONDITION FOR $4.85 MILLION. THE DAMAGE LOSS RESULTING FROM THIS ACCIDENT TOTALED $31.53 MILLION.
Recommendation: THE NTSB RECOMMENDS THAT THE U.S. COAST GUARD: REQUIRE THAT THE FIRE CONTROL SYSTEM ON EACH TANK VESSEL HAVE INDIVIDUAL CONTROLS IN THE PROTECTED FIRE CONTROL ROOM TO SUPPLY AND CONTROL WATER AND FOAM TO EACH FIRE FOAM MONITOR.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Unacceptable Action
Mode: Marine
Location: Other Seas and Gulfs, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: DCA90MM019
Accident Reports:
Explosion and Fire on the U.S. Tank Ship Surf City
Report #: MAR-92-02
Accident Date: 2/22/1990
Issue Date: 4/29/1992
Date Closed: 9/12/2001
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: USCG (Closed - Unacceptable Action)
Keyword(s):

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: USCG
Date: 9/12/2001
Response: The Safety Board is disappointed that because this recommendation was rejected by the NFPA, the Coast Guard intends to take no further action on this issue and will not require that the fire control system on each tank vessel have individual controls in the protected fire control room to supply and control water and foam to each fire foam monitor, as requested. The Safety Board continues to believe that remote operation of foam monitors should be required, particularly in the event the monitors cannot be accessed because of extreme heat or fire. The case of the Surf City clearly demonstrates this problem. The crew testified that they were unable to operate the ship's main deck firefighting system because they could not reach the monitors to activate them. Accordingly, Safety Recommendation M-92-11 is classified "Closed--Unacceptable Action."

From: USCG
To: NTSB
Date: 7/31/2000
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 04/10/2001 6:34:50 PM MC# 2010310 The Coast Guard presented this recommendation to the National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) Technical Committee on Foam for consideration. The committee did not deem it necessary to require remote valve operators for each monitor. In order for a foam monitor to be used in extinguishing a deck fire, the monitor must be moved to blanket the area, either by a crewmember standing at the monitor or by remote control. The committee did not believe that the current remote control systems would be effective aboard tank vessels due to the harsh on-deck environment. The committee noted that the referenced casualty involved a massive explosion and fire. The heat from the flames was of such intensity that the crew could take no actions other than to abandon the vessel, and remotely operated valves would not have changed the outcome of this casualty. A review of other tank vessel casualties showed that many fires followed an explosion of significant magnitude that would have damaged piping and electrically or pneumatically activated remote control circuits. Since the NFPA committee did not agree that remote operation of the foam monitors should be required, the Coast Guard plans no further action on this recommendation.

From: NTSB
To: USCG
Date: 7/14/1998
Response: NTSB REQUESTED A FOLLOWUP.

From: NTSB
To: USCG
Date: 3/20/1997
Response: THE BOARD AGREES THAT A USCG-SPONSORED NATIONAL FIRE PROTECTION ASSOCIATION (NFPA) STANDARD FOR THE DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION OF TANK VESSEL DECK FOAM SYSTEM, IN CONJUCTION WITH AN IMO RULE REGULATING TANK VESSELS ON INTERNATIONAL VOYAGES, WILL SATISFY THE INTENT OF BOTH RECOMMENDATIONS. THEREFORE, PENDING COMPLETION OF THE NFPA INDUSTRY STANDARD & USCG'S PROPOSAL TO THE IMO, M-92-11 & -12 WILL REMAIN CLASSIFIED "OPEN--ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE." THE BOARD WOULD APPRECIATE PERIODIC UPDATES ON THESE ISSUES.

From: USCG
To: NTSB
Date: 9/23/1996
Response: REQUIRE THAT THE FIRE CONTROL SYSTEM ON EACH TANK VESSEL HAVE INDIVIDUAL CONTROLS IN THE PROTECTED FIRE CONTROL ROOM TO SUPPLY & CONTROL WATER & FOAM TO EACH FIRE FOAM MONITOR.

From: NTSB
To: USCG
Date: 5/24/1993
Response: THE BOARD UNDERSTAND THAT THE COAST GUARD IS PLANNING TO REVIEW ITS 1977 STUDY ENTITLED AUTOMATED DECK FOAM FIREFIGHTING SYSTEMS FOR TANKERS TO DETERMINE THE RELIABILITY AND EFFECTIVENESS OF THESE SYSTEMS & TO USE THE RESULTS OF ITS REVIEW TO DRAFT PROPOSED INTERNATIONAL REGULATORY CHANGES TO BE SUBMITTED TO THE INTERNATIONAL MARITIME ORGANIZATION (IMO), IF APPROPRIATE. THE BOARD WOULD LIKE TO BE KEPT INFORMED OF THE PROGRESS ON THESE RECOMMENDATIONS. IN THE INTERIM, M-92-11 & -12 HAVE BEEN CLASSIFIED "OPEN--ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE."

From: USCG
To: NTSB
Date: 3/4/1993
Response: I CONCUR WITH THESE RECOMMENDATIONS. IN 1977, THE CG R&D CENTER CONDUCTED A STUDY ENTITLED AUTOMATED DECK FOAM FIREFIGHTING SYSTEMS FOR TANKERS. ALTHOUGH SOME OF THE RESULTS WERE FAVORABLE, THE STUDY RAISED SERIOUS CONCERNS REGARDING RELIABILITY AND EFFECTIVENESS OF REMOTELY CONTROLLED FOAM FIREFIGHTING SYSTEMS. COMMANDANT (G-MTH) WILL CONDUCT A FOLLOW-ON REVIEW TO DETERMINE THE STATE OF THE ART FOR RELIABILITY AND EFFECTIVENESS OF THESE SYSTEMS. BASED ON THE RESULTS OF THE FOLLOW-ON REVIEW, WE WILL DRAFT PROPOSED INTERNATIONAL REGULATORY CHANGES FOR SUBMITTAL TO THE IMO IF APPROPRIATE. I WILL KEEP INFORMED OF OUR PROGRESS ON THESE RECOMMENDATIONS.