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March 1 2004

Tank cleaning procedures suspect in tanker explosion

According to Norwegian daily Aftenposten,Odfjell ASA, suspects the blast aboard the chemical tanker Bow Spirit was "caused by poor tank-cleaning or cargo loading procedures before it left port in New York. "

The vessel left New York on Saturday afternoon, bound for Texas City with 11,000 tons of ethanol on board. Hours later, it exploded and sank.

The newspaper reports Odfjell's operations director Jan D Lorentz as saying the vessel had discharged a load of fuel additive MTBE while in New York. He told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Sunday that the tanks used for the additives may have sparked the explosion if they weren't properly cleaned or aired out after being unloaded.

Hammer reportedly said both the fuel additives and the ethanol are "completely normal cargos" for a chemical tanker, and not especially dangerous to transport. The vessel routinely carried such cargoes from the Middle East to the U.S.

Bow Mariner, was built in Split, Yugoslavia, in 1982 to DNV class. It has been classed by DNV throughout its 22 years of operation. Bow Mariner had ISM certification from ABS.

The vessel had a clean class record, with no recommendations or overdue surveys, says DNV. The latest Annual Survey was carried out in October 2003 in Norfolk, USA.

In 2002, the vessel went through Condition Assessments (CAP) of the hull, giving a rating of 2, which means the hull is in good condition. Late 2002 a CAP was also carried out of the machinery and cargo system. This gave a rating 1, which describes the machinery and cargo system to be in very good condition.

DNV says it will cooperate with the owner, the management company and with the authorities of Singapore in order to establish what caused the accident.

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