The US NTSB issued an investigation report on the explosion and fire involving the dredger ‘Jonathon King Boyd’ and its towboat ‘Bayou Chevron’ in Matagorda Bay, in April 2018. The report highlighted the company’s failure to inform the crew about utilities in the area due to ineffective oversight.
On the evening of 17 April 2018, the cutter suction dredge 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 dredge and its accompanying towboat, the Bayou Chevron.
All 10 crew members 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 National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the fire aboard the cutter suction dredge Jonathon King Boyd 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 highlights that the accident occurred although regulations and controls were in place to reduce and mitigate the risk and hazard of dredging in a channel with underground piping.
RLB Contracting did not have adequate oversight measures in place to ensure that two critical steps were taken,
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, NTSB underlined.
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