NTSB: Incomplete Safety Procedures Led to Illinois Barge Explosion

October 14, 2020

The National Transportation Safety Board said in a new report that the use of incomplete safety procedures was the probable cause of the Nov. 4, 2019, explosion of barge IB1940 in the Illinois Marine Towing Heritage Slip on the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal, near Lemont, Illinois.

The NTSB issued its Marine Accident Report 20-34 on Oct. 13. The report details its investigation of the explosion, which occurred when the barge was being prepared for cleaning after its cargo of acetone had been unloaded. No injuries or pollution were reported in connection with the explosion. The barge was declared a total constructive loss, valued at $1.75M.

In the report, the NTSB says the probable cause of the explosion was incomplete procedures that did not incorporate the safety instructions included in the Illinois Marine Towing Facility Operations Manual for electrical bonding of air movers to barges.

Screen shot from video captured by a camera at the nearby Illinois and Michigan Oil Company facility

The NTSB’s investigation revealed that while Illinois Marine Towing had written guidance to workers for tasks related to barge cleaning operations before the explosion, the documents did not include all procedures identified in the Facility Operations Manual, specifically guidance for bonding air movers to the barge.

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.

Marine Accident Report 20-34 is available online at https://go.usa.gov/xGSbv.

Source: NTSB

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