Dredger Fire: Crew Not Informed about Utilities in the Vicinity


Published Jul 30, 2019 9:18 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. NTSB has released its analysis of the pipeline breach and subsequent fire on board the cutter suction dredge Jonathon King Boyd and towboat Bayou Chevron highlighting a lack of information provided to the crew.

On the evening of April 17, 2018, the Jonathon King Boyd punctured a submarine natural gas pipeline with a spud during dredging operations in Matagorda Bay, Texas. A gas plume ignited and engulfed the dredger and its accompanying towboat, the Bayou Chevron. All 10 crewmembers abandoned the vessels uninjured. Damage to the pipeline was estimated at $1.7 million. The Jonathon King Boyd and the Bayou Chevron were constructive total losses, valued at $5.5 million and $125,000 respectively.

The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the fire was RLB Contracting’s failure to inform the crew about utilities in the area due to ineffective oversight, which led to dropping a spud onto a buried submarine pipeline, causing natural gas to release and ignite.

The report states: 

“First, RLB Contracting was required to alert the Texas Notification System before commencing the accident section of the dredging project. However, based on the evidence this notification did not take place. When the Notification System received notification about a new project, a ticket would be generated and a copy provided to the notification source. Neither the company nor the Texas Notification System was able to locate a ticket for the dredging location where the accident occurred.

“Second, the company typically reviewed USACE provided drawings to identify utilities and other hazards, and incorporated those in their dredging software, HYPACK. The Jonathon King Boyd captain and crew relied solely on the HYPACK software while conducting dredging operations. Despite this reliance, before dredging, RLB Contracting did not incorporate files into the HYPACK software from the USACE-provided contract drawings that identified the locations of the submerged pipelines.

“RLB Contracting relied on a single shoreside individual (the production engineer) to carry out appropriate notifications and to input the data for the vessel software, which, in this instance, led to a single-point failure.”

The report is available here.