28 February 2004




VESSEL & Interveners

1 - IMO Number : 7923512 2 - Name of Ship : BOW MARINER
3 - Call Sign : S6EO3 4 - Gross Tonnage : 22 587
5 - Type of Ship : Chemical/Oil Products Tanker 6 -Year of Build : 1982
7 - Flag : Singapore 8 -Status of Ship : In Service
9 -   Registred Owner : ODJFELL ASA II 10 - Address :

6, Shenton Way, Singapore SINGAPORE

11 - Ship Manager : CERES HELLENIC SHIPPING 12 - Address :

69, Akti Miaouli, Piraeus GREECE

13 - Classification Society : DET NORSKE VERITAS 14 - P&I

Britannia Steamship insurance Association Ld

15 - Surveyor :   16 - Sollicitor :  
17 - Hull Underwriters :   18 - Cargo Underwriters :  
19 - Others :   20 - Others :  

NB : Information 1 to 14 are extracted from the database EQUASIS. Information are updated at the date of the casualty.

Information from 15 to 20 were found on public websites




The chemical tanker put out a mayday distress call, shortly after 1800 (2300GMT) the 28 Februaray 2004, when it was off Chincoteague in northern Virginia.  it blew up (the explosion occurred after a fire started on the ship's deck) and sank one hour and a half later in international waters





Agrandir le plan




Date :

19 April 2004 Source : Daily Press


Vapors sank tanker, expert says
It was fumes from empty tanks, not the main ethanol cargo, that sank the Bow Mariner, a local maritime surveyor says.

Published April 19, 2004

NORFOLK - As the Bow Mariner oil tanker steamed past Virginia on its way to Texas on Feb. 28, it held millions of gallons of crude industrial ethanol, a flammable liquid gas, in its cargo holds.

But an experienced marine surveyor said Friday that it was not likely the ethanol, but vapors left over from an entirely different product - a gas additive that had been dropped off in New Jersey - that exploded and sank the ship 50 miles off the coast, killing 21 of the 27 sailors on board.

The location of the cargo on the ship revealed by the Coast Guard on Friday - and matched up with previous sonar images showing the location of gaping holes in the deck - show that the explosions that sank the ship occurred not in the central ethanol tanks, but in tanks carrying a gas additive called methyl tertiary-butyl ether, or MTBE, according to Alyn F. Fife, a Newport News surveyor who's been inspecting ships for shipping lines and others since 1948.

The Bow Mariner, built in Yugoslavia in 1978, left Saudi Arabia with a crew of Greek officers and mostly Filipino seamen, carrying 11 million gallons of cargo. That included 7.8 million gallons of MTBE, an additive used to boost octane in auto gasoline, which it dropped off in Linden, N.J. It also included 3.2 million gallons of ethanol, a product used in gasoline production, planning to drop that off in Texas.

Of the 28 oil tanks on the ship, the Coast Guard said Friday, 22 held the MTBE and were empty at the time of the accident - save for the vapors and residual product that remained. Six tanks at the center of the vessel, meantime, were filled to the brim with ethanol.

The mixture of a liquid gas is usually too rich to be combustible, experts say, and explosions are more likely to happen with gas vapors - which is why a nearly empty automobile gasoline tank is more likely to explode in an accident than a full one.

The Bow Mariner accident might have occurred, Fife surmised, when crew members were cleaning the empty tanks that had held the MTBE. Tanker crews often do such cleaning while under way, between deliveries. The vice president of U.S. operations for the owners of the ship, Odfjell Seachem, of Bergen, Norway, said it would not have been unusual for the crew to vent and clean the empty tanks while en route between ports.

"You have to vent the tanks out so the crew can go down and get whatever muck was left," Fife said. "They have to shovel it into buckets, and hoist it out. Especially gas from Saudi Arabia, sometimes there's 20 inches of sand at the bottom of the tanks."

During that cleaning period, he said, the inert gas systems in the ship - which envelops the explosive gas in a sort of blanket of oxygen-free gas - are turned off. Turning the system off and putting oxygen in the system allows the crew to fill the tanks with an oxygen mixture so they can enter the tanks. But care is necessary, because turning them off also allows the gas particles inside to combine with the oxygen above the residual material, sometimes forming an explosive mixture inside.

Oil tankers have strict safeguards in place about that cleaning period, including limits on steel-toed shoes to prevent sparks, tools such as hammers, static electricity from water equipment or from fan blowers, or even a flame from a lighter or a cigarette.

In Fife's view, the explosion probably took place in tanks one, two or three - the three most forward tanks on the tanker's port side - after the inert gas system was turned off. A person doing the cleaning or a piece of equipment used in the cleaning somehow created a spark.

Tanks further down the line, along the row carrying the MTBE, also exploded, though some did not. "I think the first explosion probably toppled something over near the other tanks, and a spark from that caused them to explode," Fife said.

Another local surveyor, Tate Austin of Norfolk Maritime Surveyors, speculates that the accident began not inside the tanks, but on the Bow Mariner's deck - possibly when a manhole cover or what's called an ullage cover were taken off, allowing vapor that was not yet inert to come out.

"All it takes is a small spark, and you could have had a flash fire and subsequent explosions in the tanks," Austin said.

Maritime experts say the accident is more likely to have begun with the cargo tanks and have pretty much discounted the theory that the accident began in the diesel or fuel tanks used to power the ship. Those fuels are less combustible than the cargo fuel the ship was carrying.

But the Coast Guard is not yet speculating how the accident happened, said Jerry Crooks, the Coast Guard's chief of investigations in Hampton Roads. Crooks wouldn't rule out the diesel fuel, and would not rule out the ethanol or anything else as the explosion's origins.

So far, Crooks said, the Coast Guard has interviewed a chief cook and a messman, who shed little light on the accident's cause.

But the Coast Guard has not yet gotten much information from the third mate, second assistant engineer, able seaman or electrician who were also on board. The four have been granted immunity from prosecution and are testifying before a grand jury., 247-4749

Date :

18 April 2004

Source :

Times Dispach


'We are on fire!'


'Mayday, mayday, mayday! This is the Bow Mariner, Bow Mariner!'




The first Coast Guard rescue helicopter arrived in time for the Bow Mariner's death throes.

The 570-foot tanker, devastated by an explosion and fire, was sinking into a chemical stew of its own escaping cargo. The ship stood nearly vertical in the ocean, 58 miles off the Virginia coast, its stern pointing up into the night sky. Pockets of trapped air were blasting open the ship's watertight hatches and portholes.

"I couldn't believe I was seeing it," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Ben Bradley, the flight mechanic on the helicopter. "It was just like 'Titanic,' with the ship yawing up and over and then just sinking, heading down."
Somewhere below him were the 27 crew members of the Bow Mariner.

The air reeked of chemical fumes and the water temperature was a frigid 44 degrees. If any of the men were going to survive, they would have to be found fast.
The helicopter dipped to 200 feet and circled the doomed ship. Bradley and the co-pilot shone powerful searchlights up and down the superstructure, which sat on the stern. Maybe someone would be clinging to the rails, riding the ship down. They saw no one.
Then Bradley saw a thin flashlight beam shining out from a porthole on a part of the ship that had just slid below the water. At first he thought the flashlight was just floating free in a flooded compartment. But then the beam was turned up to the helicopter, locking onto its flight path. The light whirled in frantic circles as it faded quickly into the depths.
In his nightmares since the sinking, Bradley is the trapped sailor with the flashlight.
The Bow Mariner left the industrial port of Linden, N.J., late that morning, bound for Texas City, Texas. It was partially loaded with 3.2 million gallons of industrial-grade ethanol for use as solvent in the cosmetics industry. Ethanol, a form of alcohol, is highly flammable. Mixed with oxygen, it can explode.
Like many commercial vessels, the Bow Mariner was an international operation. Built in 1982 in Yugoslavia, it was owned by the Norwegian firm Odfjell and operated by the Greek shipping firm Ceres Hellenic Shipping Ltd., which employed a crew of three Greek senior officers and 24 Filipinos. It flew the flag of the Republic of Singapore.
The evening of Feb. 28 was cold and clear, with calm seas. The sun set at 6:01 p.m., leaving a bright twilight with a waxing quarter-moon in the southern sky. It was as lovely an evening in February as a sailor could ask for.
The Bow Mariner passed east of Chincoteague, plying the busy commercial shipping lanes, sailing almost parallel to an India-flagged bulk freighter less than five miles away. Off to the northwest, on a shallower shelf, two scallop boats from the New Jersey Shore, the Karen L and the Capt. Bucky Smith, dragged their nets along the sandy bottom.
At 6:06 p.m. a crewman on the Capt. Bucky was answering nature's call along the rail when he noticed a smudge of smoke and what looked like the glow of a small fire on the horizon. He could not see the source.
Then came a thunderous boom and a towering orange-and-yellow fireball that lit the sky.
"There were explosions inside of explosions," said Pete Dolan, captain of the Karen L. "It was erupting here and there. It would calm down, then start erupting again."
At his home on Chincoteague Island, Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Jay Fair heard and felt two loud booms. He asked his wife to check on their dog, who became jumpy in thunderstorms. A few minutes later, Fair's phone rang.
. . .
The Coast Guard's first notice of the disaster was an earsplitting squawk on the radio - the coded signal of an electronic distress device required on all vessels the size of the Bow Mariner. Before Coast Guard radio operators could punch up the code to identify the ship, they heard the voice of what sounded like a young Filipino man, on the knife-edge of panic:
"Bow Mariner, Bow Mariner, we are on fire! We are on fire! Mayday, mayday, mayday! This is Bow Mariner, Bow Mariner! We are on fire!"
Then, after a brief pause, "This is Bow Mariner, Bow Mariner! We are on fire!"
The operators asked the caller to give his position and "the nature of your distress," but the Bow Mariner did not reply.
Exactly what happened aboard the tanker is unclear. Its crew, a mix of veteran sailors and young men fresh out of a Filipino training academy, appears to have had little or no warning. Some were asleep below deck.
One survivor, a young Filipino named Reynaldo Tagle, the ship's steward, told Filipino community leaders in Hampton Roads that he had been working on the mess deck, cleaning up after dinner, when the explosion shook the vessel. Tagle said a voice over the intercom cried, "Abandon ship," and he ran to his locker for a life vest.
Before he could open the locker, the ship lurched violently and listed to a 45-degree angle. He went sprawling and all the lockers flew open, spilling their contents. Tagle picked up a vest and ran for the main deck. Later, as he clung to a floating log in the water, he heard a man crying out in Greek.
Ships near the Bow Mariner reported fire on the tanker and on the water - apparently the spilled ethanol igniting on the surface. One boat captain described "a 500-foot ring of fire" around the Bow Mariner. The freighter captain said he would go to the tanker's aid when the explosions stopped.
Pete Dolan told his crew to haul in the Karen L's gear so they could go help. From the size of the fireball, he figured the source was very close. He set his radar for six miles and saw nothing. He reset it for 12 miles and still saw nothing. Finally he found a target at 14 miles. Dolan wondered what kind of explosion would have loomed so large from so far off.
The law requires all vessels to render assistance as they can to ships in distress, but it does not require them to charge into disaster zones. No one would have faulted the scallop-boat captains for hanging back to see what they might be getting themselves into.
Albert Carlson, the captain of the Capt. Bucky, was thinking back 15 years to a day off the coast of New York when he had kept fishing while other boats rushed to the scene of a serious tugboat accident. Since that day, he had wondered if he might have made a difference. He was not going to have to wonder about this night, too.
But Carlson had to wonder whether he could possibly arrive in time to save anyone in an ocean this cold. The aging Capt. Bucky's top speed was 8 knots, and it had 18 miles to go. The trip to the scene of the explosion would take more than two hours.
. . .
The Coast Guard could move faster.
Within minutes of the first radio squawk, the Coast Guard began mobilizing every long-range search-and-rescue, or SAR, aircraft and vessel on duty in District 5, the mid-Atlantic region.
The distinctive whoop of SAR alarms sounded at the Coast Guard air bases in Atlantic City, N.J., and Elizabeth City, N.C., and at boat bases in Portsmouth, Chincoteague and Cape May, N.J.
Rescue crews jumped up from their dinners, TV shows and workouts, grabbed their gear and exchanged looks at the still-sketchy reports of a "tanker on fire."
The crews spend most of their careers responding to false alarms and minor emergencies. "We joke about getting the big one, the big SAR case," said Bradley, the flight mechanic on the first helicopter. "You knew from the start that this was going to be the big one."
At the boat station in Chincoteague, Petty Officer 2nd Class Matt Carlisle, the coxswain of a 47-foot motor lifeboat, thought the radio reports sounded almost "too bad to be true." He wondered how his greener crew members would handle what they might have to witness.
The crew of the HH-65 Dolphin helicopter scrambling to launch from Atlantic City quickly considered the types of injuries they might encounter: burns, smoke inhalation, blunt-force trauma, hypothermia, drowning and chemical exposure. The list was virtually all-inclusive.
At Elizabeth City, the crew of the first HH-60 Jayhawk grabbed extra oxygen bottles and unloaded a large pump designed to help fishing boats taking on water. The pump would not help a 570-foot tanker and would take up space that might be needed for survivors.
A Jayhawk's cabin is about the size of a small minivan. Just before climbing into the pilot's seat, Lt. Eric Bader got the word that the tanker had a crew of 27. The helicopter crew raced over the ocean in the dark at 180 mph, still not knowing the tanker's name or what was in its tanks.
At District 5 headquarters in Portsmouth, search coordinators furiously worked the phones, calling the ship's owner, the shipping agent, New Jersey port officials and hazardous-chemical specialists, trying to pin down what hazards awaited the rescuers. But it was a Saturday night, and events were moving faster than information.
First the tanker was reported to be carrying methanol, then ethanol. Neither name meant much to Bader. "I got a C in college chemistry," the Jayhawk pilot deadpanned over the radio. "Can't you give me any more than that?"
Racing ahead of the helicopter in a big C-130 Hercules search plane, Petty Officer 1st Class Leonard Hoppe found a manual on hazardous materials, looked up ethanol and reported it was highly flammable. The manual said nothing about whether ethanol was hazardous to breathe.
District 5 eventually radioed that ethanol fumes were not poisonous but could overcome a person in high concentrations. The rescuers were advised to stay upwind of the fumes if possible.
But the first good look at the disaster scene showed that would not be even remotely possible.
. . .
The C-130, which could fly almost twice as fast as the helicopters, captured the first images of the Bow Mariner from an altitude of 5,000 feet, using an infrared camera installed for a prior mission hunting drug boats in the Caribbean.
At first, the situation did not look so bad. The camera operator, Petty Officer 3rd Class Jeremy McMullen, saw the broad shape of the India-flagged freighter and mistook it for the Bow Mariner. "I said, Hey, this thing's big. But it's going to be fine," McMullen recalled.
He had not heard about the explosion. He figured the tanker had had a small fire, and that the crew had extinguished it.
Then McMullen saw a large shape sticking almost straight up out of the ocean. It took him a few seconds to realize he was looking at the Bow Mariner's stern. A closer look with the zoom lens showed the tanker's huge propeller, high above the water, no longer turning.
"I was stunned," McMullen said.
The infrared camera was extraordinarily good at detecting fire and human beings with normal body heat, but McMullen saw none of either. The fire was out; any men in the cold water might already be too hypothermic to generate readable heat signatures.
Several hundred yards away, the searchlight of the HH-65 Dolphin from Atlantic City found four bodies floating in the midst of the oil slick.
McMullen saw only an enormous ship sinking fast by the bow, where the vessel's six ethanol tanks were located. The ship was ringed with debris and at least two types of spill. Floating on one side of it was what looked like a capsized lifeboat. On the other side was a large circular raft with a canopy.
The HH-65 helicopter from Atlantic City reached the scene only minutes later. From the helicopter crew's perspective, gazing down through night-vision goggles from an altitude of 200 feet, the situation looked even worse.
The ocean around the sinking ship glittered with blinking strobe lights attached to empty life vests that apparently had floated out of the ship. Other lights flashed from torn pieces of life rafts, and from empty life rings stenciled with the words, "Bow Mariner, Singapore." The lights made for an eerie, confusing show.
The paint-thinner smell of ethanol filled the helicopter, so intense that the crew wondered if it was safe to switch on the 3 million-candlepower searchlights. But there was really no choice.
The first thing the lights caught was the floating remains of a man who obviously had been killed by the explosion. The helicopter radioed the coordinates of the body to the 70-foot scallop boat Karen L, which had recently arrived.
On the Karen L's long trip to the scene, the crew had watched helplessly as the fire died and the Bow Mariner's image on the radar screen dwindled to nothing. The only sailors the Karen L had found to rescue were several crew members of the India-flagged freighter, who had set out in a lifeboat but got its propeller snarled in a floating rope.
The Karen L's crew had been breathing ethanol fumes for at least 30 minutes when they heard the warning to stay upwind of them. "We said, 'Well, it's a little late for that,'" recalled Dolan, the captain. "We all kind of laughed." It would be the fishermen's only light moment that night.
The crew of the Karen L retrieved the remains of the man, covered him with a rug and laid him on the forepeak, where he would remain for nearly five hours until a Coast Guard cutter broke off from the search to pick him up.
Bradley's helicopter headed for the upraised stern of the Bow Mariner and circled it several times, shining the searchlights on its rails and superstructure. It was then that Bradley thought of the Titanic (which was about one-third longer than the Bow Mariner and took almost twice as long to sink). And it was then that Bradley saw the flashlight beam from the porthole, stuff of his nightmares.
Black bunker oil was spilling from the ship and spreading across the water all around it. When the ocean finally swallowed the Bow Mariner at 7:30 p.m. - 84 minutes after the explosions - the ship "looked like it was going into a black hole," Bradley said.
An empty lifeboat tied by a long rope to the Bow Mariner's stern followed the tanker under for a moment, then popped back up to the surface when the rope snapped. On its way to the bottom, the tanker disgorged another mass of debris to the surface, including dozens more empty, blinking life vests.
. . .
The H-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Elizabeth City arrived shortly after the sinking. Its crew had been monitoring the radio and knew what awaited them, but seeing it was another thing.
"When I go out, I always anticipate saving everybody," said the Jayhawk's rescue swimmer, Petty Officer 3rd Class Dave Foreman. "That's the rescue swimmer's mentality. But seeing this huge chaotic scene was a big letdown, because I just knew there was going to be a lot of death."
The C-130, serving as an airborne communications center, directed the Jayhawk to the large, circular life raft, where the infrared camera was detecting motion. The Jayhawk hovered over it at 70 feet, low enough to see but high enough to avoid capsizing the raft. A helicopter's rotor wash - the downward rush of air from its rotating blades - has the force of a hurricane.
The raft's canopy made it difficult to see inside. Foreman and the flight mechanic, Petty Officer 2nd Class Sam Pulliam, spotted one or two men waving. It was the first sign of life from the Bow Mariner.
Coast Guard helicopters use hydraulic lift systems to hoist victims to safety. The pilot and co-pilot maneuver the helicopter into position. The flight mechanic operates the lifting mechanism to lower and raise a steel rescue basket, about the size of a baby's crib, at the end of a long steel cable. When a victim cannot get into the basket without help, the rescue swimmer goes down.
Bader, the Jayhawk pilot, did not want to risk lowering Foreman through an ethanol cloud into an oil spill. Some of the crew already felt lightheaded. If the rescue swimmer went into the water and passed out, who would rescue him?
The helicopter dangled the basket in front of the gap in the canopy where the survivors had waved. No one tried to get in, or even to grab the basket.
After several attempts, Bader wondered aloud over the radio, "What can we do to get them into the basket?"
Foreman, 24, a former beach lifeguard on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, was waiting for such an opening. He asked to be lowered into the water. In a Coast Guard rescue helicopter, only the aircraft commander decides whether to deploy a swimmer. A swimmer can refuse if he thinks it's too dangerous, but that rarely happens.
Senior Coast Guard officers in Portsmouth had discussed the wisdom of sending a swimmer down but left the call to Bader. Rear Adm. Sally Brice-O'Hara, the 5th District commander, noted that the people on the raft had been breathing the fumes for an hour and were still alive. They were, in effect, canaries in a coal mine.
Bader decided he had no choice but to grant Foreman's wish. The Jayhawk could not just turn around and fly home. The victims on the raft surely were hypothermic. And the longer the Jayhawk hovered in the fumes, the greater the chance the helicopter crew would become victims, too.
For one thing, the Jayhawk's whirling rotors built up a great deal of static electricity. That electricity sometimes leaped to the water when the basket or swimmer was lowered. Would such a spark ignite the fumes?
Foreman rode down to the water on "the hook," a J-shaped metal device attached to the cable. Pulliam guided him to within 20 feet of the raft, and he slid into the frigid water. He wore a body-length dry suit with a hood, plus a face mask, snorkel, gloves and flippers. The only exposed part of his body was the outer edge of his face between the mask and hood.
A low fog of ethanol fumes clung to the water's surface, swirling in the rotor wash. It seemed to be evaporating quickly, and little tendrils of it rose and vanished, quickly replaced by others. "Very eerie," Foreman recalled.
Because the face mask covered his nose, he worried he could not tell how intense the fumes were. The oil spill had not yet reached the raft, but he could smell it coming.
A few strokes brought Foreman to the raft, which was inflatable, round and about 8 feet in diameter. He climbed a little set of boarding steps and peered inside the canopy. The interior was as black as obsidian, reeking with oil, and very crowded.
"I'm seeing all these bodies and equipment, not knowing what was what," Foreman recalled. "There was one guy on his knees yelling at me. Everybody was screaming. I'm trying to figure out what's going on, how many people are in there, who had injuries."
One of the survivors told him in broken English that there were six people aboard and that one of them, an oily mass at his feet, had a back injury.
Foreman wanted to be sure, so he crawled through the raft, feeling his way to distinguish between human beings and bags of gear, trying not to step on the injured.
"The ones that were conscious were yelling a lot, they were delirious," he said. "They were reaching out to nothing, just putting their hands out, completely black, with their hands clenched. Some of them were reaching out to me. I was worried about one of them attacking me."
Foreman felt as though he had wandered into the middle of a horror movie.
He decided there were six or seven people in the raft, including a dead man in the back. The living seemed to be suffering mainly from hypothermia and chemical blindness. Everyone was coated with oil. The men were wearing only shirts and pants or sweat suits, along with the kind of life vests available in department stores.
Foreman used his hand-held radio to give that assessment to his crew mates in the helicopter. The radio was so coated with oil, he could not tell which frequency he was using.
The helicopter maneuvered close to start hoisting. Whenever possible, rescue crews hoist directly from the water rather than from vessels, where the hoisting wires can become entangled.
Foreman told the man who spoke English that the survivors should follow him into the water one at a time. But the last thing the survivors wanted to do was get back into the water.
Foreman grabbed one of them by the collar and dragged him in. The man struggled briefly and then curled up into a ball. Foreman loaded him into the basket and Pulliam hoisted it up as Foreman swam back to get the next man.
The Coast Guard had saved its first life of the night. But the helicopter crew worried the fumes were getting to Foreman. "Dave is starting to sound a little loopy on the radio," Bader said.
. . .
Several hundred yards away, the searchlight of the helicopter from Atlantic City found bodies floating almost in a line, in the midst of the oil slick. The crew members peered down to see who needs help first - "practicing triage from 200 feet," as the pilot, Lt. Russ Torgerson, put it.
The first three lay motionless, with obvious injuries. The fourth looked up and moved his arms.
The oil was so thick on the water that the rotor wash barely caused a ripple.
Torgerson decided to drop to an altitude of 40 feet and send his rescue swimmer, Petty Officer 3rd Class Zee Lee, into the water tethered to the hook. Flight mechanic Bradley would guide Lee directly to the victim, Lee would wrap a harness and his body around him, and Bradley would hoist the two together.
The textbook name for such a maneuver is "direct deployment," and it unfolded with textbook perfection until the men reached the helicopter's door.
The victim, who appeared to be a young Filipino, was limp and slick with oil, which spread through the cabin as the crew struggled to bring him in. "We were slipping around like we were on an ice rink," Bradley said.
The man was deathly cold, blinded and struggling to breathe. The helicopter crew feared that giving him oxygen would set off an explosion. The helicopter raced toward Ocean City, Md., and the nearest hospital. About a third of the way there, the man stopped breathing.
The rescuers pulled a portable defibrillator from the helicopter's EMT kit and tried to shock his heart back into rhythm. But the man was so coated with oil that the device could not read his heart rhythm. Without a reading, it would not deliver a shock. "Cannot read pads," the device kept saying. "Press pads firmly."
Bradley and Lee scrubbed at the man's chest with clothes and gauze, but neither could get through the oil. All that was left was CPR. The crew performed it all the way to Ocean City, where the Maryland State Police picked up the man and took him the rest of the way to the hospital. There he was pronounced dead.
"The oil changed everything," Bradley said.
. . .
Back at the disaster scene, Dave Foreman wrestled a second survivor from the life raft into the basket, then decided to cut off the raft's canopy. It was in the way, and the fumes seemed 10 times stronger beneath it.
Foreman plunged his knife into it and felt the raft start to deflate under his feet. He had not realized the canopy was inflated, too. He wondered if he had just sunk the raft. The severed canopy collapsed on the remaining occupants of the raft, who struggled blindly to throw it off.
Overhead, Bader and Pulliam could see Foreman finally succumbing to the fumes. "It looked like Dave would just stop moving at times," Pulliam said. "Mr. Bader would say, 'Sam, shine a light on him, he's not moving anymore,' and I would, and after a while he'd look up and kind of wave, and then go on with what he was doing."
Foreman said he does not remember passing out, "but if I had, I wouldn't remember it. . . . I was having a little trouble thinking. I knew I didn't have much time I could stay down there."
After four victims had been hoisted, Foreman signaled for Pulliam to send down the litter for the injured man. The litter is essentially a backboard, stored in the helicopter in two sections, that can be assembled in 30 seconds.
But Pulliam was dizzy and covered with oil from the survivors he had pulled into the helicopter. The floor of the cabin was even more slippery. Pulliam fumbled with the litter as Bader's voice in his ear urged him to "hurry, hurry, Dave's not making much sense on the radio." Pulliam was afraid the litter was going to slide right out the door.
He finally fit its pieces together and lowered it to Foreman, who strapped the hurt man into it and sent it back up. The litter was 7 feet long, a foot longer than the cabin, so Pulliam wedged it in at an angle, with the victim's feet slightly raised. The cabin was packed and reeking with oil. The entire crew felt woozy.
Foreman decided to take a last look at the dead man in the back of the raft. He screamed in his ear. Nothing. He rubbed his sternum in a way that causes excruciating pain. The man stirred. Foreman asked if he was hurt. The man pointed to his back.
The litter already was occupied, so Foreman signaled for the basket to be lowered again. The raft had lost so much air that with every step he felt as though he was walking in deep mud. He bundled the man into the raft and sent him up. Pulliam looked down into the basket in confusion. Its contents looked more like an oil-soaked duffel bag than a person.
"I thought Dave had totally lost his mind and was bringing up equipment," Pulliam recalled.
He drew the basket and its contents into the only open place it would fit - atop the legs of the man on the litter, who screamed loudly enough to be heard over the roar of the rotors.
Pulliam lowered the hook to Foreman, who could not seem to catch it. "It'd feel like it was coming toward me," Foreman said, "then all of a sudden it would shoot off and do a circle all the way around me, then come around again." Pulliam did not notice the hook swinging any more than usual.
Foreman had been in the water and on the raft for 45 minutes.
. . .
Once Foreman was back safely in the helicopter, Bader aimed the Jayhawk toward Sentara Norfolk General Hospital and gave it full power. The victims were not saved yet. One's core body temperature had dropped to 85 degrees.
The survivors faded in and out of consciousness, sometimes clutching blindly at the air. A couple kept gesturing that they were cold. Some were so saturated with oil that Pulliam could not even see any whites of their eyes. The last cargo in the basket was definitely a man rather than a duffel bag: He would awaken at times, disoriented and terrified, and try to hit and bite Pulliam.
The crew was no stranger to such behavior. "We see all kind of phases of people that you've never seen before, people reverting back to their most basic instincts, trying to survive," Pulliam said.
Everyone in the Jayhawk would survive. Some of the survivors later told the Philippine Star newspaper that four of them had been lucky to find the raft floating near where they had leapt into the ocean, and they had picked up the other two men later.
. . .
Back at the site of the sinking, two new helicopters had arrived, one each from Atlantic City and Elizabeth City. The two scallop boats and a 47-foot Coast Guard motor lifeboat from Chincoteague were combing through the floating debris.
But the odds of finding anyone still alive in the icy water were growing longer, and the search was growing more frustrating.
The empty life vests had started to sink, and as the current bore them along, a few feet below the surface, their strobe lights would flash in unexpected places, distracting the searchers. A young petty officer in the Coast Guard boat from Chincoteague plunged her hand into the water to snag a passing light and came out with an empty vest and oil up her elbow.
The boat crew came upon a large life raft floating upside down, its bottom scorched black. The crew pounded on the bottom but heard nothing back.
Jamie Fischer, a mate on the Karen L, kept thinking he had found survivors, only to discover they were life vests or fuel drums. At one point the scallop boat's crew saw bubbles as big as basketballs surfacing all around the boat. Dolan checked the depth-finder and saw the outline of the sunken Bow Mariner directly under the Karen L.
The Coast Guard often drops flares or strobe lights to help searchers keep their bearings and to mark areas that have been searched. But the fear of an explosion prevented the use of flares, and dropping more strobe lights would have been sheer lunacy. So the searchers kept returning to the same places and objects.
The most striking of those objects was a half-sunken lifeboat whose bow and stern had been burned off. A person could see right through it, through strands of melted fiberglass, but not really into it. The interior was charred and shapeless.
The lifeboat had been examined several times and written off as empty, a ghostly, unsettling symbol of the disaster.
But the crew of the second Elizabeth City helicopter kept hovering over it. "Something just wasn't right about it," recalled the rescue swimmer, Petty Officer 3rd Class Joel Sayers. "We just kept looking at it. Someone would say, 'Do we feel comfortable [leaving] it?' and somebody else would say, 'I don't know, let's take a look from the other side,' or 'I don't know, can we get lower?'"
. . .
The helicopter radioed the Coast Guard boat from Chincoteague and asked its crew to take a look. But the scallop boat Capt. Bucky Smith was closer, and it reached the lifeboat first.
The 60-foot Capt. Bucky had steamed at full speed for two hours to reach the disaster scene. To captain Albert Carlson and his crew, the lifeboat was a discovery, their first real opportunity to save someone.
At first, the fishermen saw nothing more than the helicopter crew had. "Nah, there's nobody in the lifeboat," Carlson reported on the radio. One of his crewmen, 34-year-old Jim Lally, leaped from the scallop boat onto the lifeboat, which wobbled precariously as he landed.
"I don't know what the [expletive] I was thinking," Lally said. "I didn't see how anybody could possibly be alive on there. We were all just going on adrenaline."
Lally splashed down into the interior of the lifeboat, thigh-deep in cold, oily water. He could not see anyone. Then a searchlight swept across the black mass of the lifeboat's stern, and Lally saw the two white dots of a pair of eyes.
A man was clinging to a burnt mass of fiberglass on what had been the lifeboat's stern. He was tangled in some kind of cable. The only parts of his body that were out of the water were his arms and head, black with oil except for his eyes.
Lally reached down, grabbed the man under the arms and tried to pull him up. But Lally had a bad back, and the man was a slippery dead weight.
The steel bow of the Capt. Bucky was bouncing on the choppy water and slamming hard against the much smaller lifeboat. Lally's shipmates yelled for him to get off the lifeboat.
Lally pried the victim from his handhold and tumbled backward with him into the interior of the lifeboat, several feet deep in cold, oily water. The man's arms were frozen into the grip he had maintained.
Lally held his head above water and talked to him, trying to keep him awake, reassuring him. The man could not speak and could barely move, but he understood. He squeezed Lally's hand and pressed his lips together in a kiss of gratitude.
Lally screamed for help from his shipmates on the Capt. Bucky. In frustration, he unleashed a torrent of obscenities at the Coast Guard boat crew, which was struggling to work its way close to the two bobbing vessels.
Finally two other fishermen leapt down onto the lifeboat. They tied a rope around the victim and hauled him up onto the Capt. Bucky.
The fishermen wrapped the man in blankets and pressed close to warm him. They rubbed his arms and legs. "He's out of it, he's in shock," Carlson said. "I'm looking at him and telling him, 'Man, you're alive, be strong! Think of your parents, think of your mother, you're going to make it!'"
The helicopter lowered Sayers, the rescue swimmer, into the Coast Guard boat, which brought him to the Capt. Bucky. Sayers checked the victim, who was hypothermic but seemed to be breathing well.
Sayers asked the fishermen if anyone else could possibly be on the lifeboat. They said they could not be sure, not after what had just happened. Sayers jumped down and crawled from one charred end of the lifeboat to the other, sinking briefly into a hole in the middle. He found no one else.
Lally and another fisherman who had jumped onto the lifeboat were so covered with oil that Sayers thought they, too, were Bow Mariner crewmen who needed hoisting. After a few moments of confusion, Sayers returned to the man in the blankets and began rigging the litter for hoisting.
Hoisting from the Capt. Bucky would be a white-knuckle experience. The crowded deck of the scallop boat bristled with masts, cables, antennas and outriggers, any one of them capable of snagging the cable and the helicopter.
Suddenly the man in the blankets stopped breathing.
The fishermen placed him on the litter, Sayers strapped him in, and up he went. "He's going to make it, isn't he?" Carlson asked. "I don't know," Sayers replied as he prepared to catch the hook.
As the helicopter roared toward Ocean City, Sayers tore open the EMT kit. The man did not respond to oxygen. Like the victim in the other helicopter, he was too thickly coated with oil for the defibrillator to read his heart rhythm.
Sayers and the flight mechanic, Petty Officer 3rd Class James Geramita, performed CPR on him until the helicopter reached Ocean City. But they could see the futility of their work in the man's eyes.
At Ocean City, firefighters in white hazardous-materials suits scrubbed the oil off Sayers and Geramita. The crew grabbed some bottled water and headed back out. They were pumped up. They had almost completed a miraculous rescue. Maybe there was another miracle waiting.
. . .
But on the way out, they noticed the radio traffic had fallen off sharply. They passed the second Atlantic City helicopter, which was heading back for good. The Karen L and Capt. Bucky had gone. It was just past 1:30 a.m., 7? hours after the explosion. Officially, the search was still in full swing, but unofficially, it had taken on a different feel for the weary searchers.
"I don't know how it was for the rest of the crew," Sayers said, "but for me, [going back out] was a morbid experience. Because everything was quiet, dark, the lights were gone, the adrenaline was starting to kind of let go.
"I noticed how bright the moon was, and I remember looking at the sea and thinking how calm this is now, compared to several hours prior, when it seemed the whole world was in an uproar. And then we ran our lights, and our night-vision goggles, and our search patterns.
"You'd see the strobe lights from the old lifeboats every once in a while, and for whatever reason we kept passing the raft they had punctured with the original [six] survivors in it. It was just - I don't know how to explain it - eerie.
"You were just praying that you'd see a little bit of retro-reflective tape, or you might see somebody, or you might hear somebody say, 'We've got someone.' You were just hoping. But . . . "
. . .
None of the other 18 men who sailed aboard the Bow Mariner have been found.
The total casualty count of 21 - the 18 missing plus the three confirmed dead - was the largest for a maritime disaster in the mid-Atlantic region since February 1983, when the collier Marine Electric sank in a storm off Chincoteague with the loss of 31 of its 34 crew.
Several of the Bow Mariner rescuers said in recent interviews that they have had nightmares about the search - about the flashlight from the porthole; the empty, blinking life vests; the eyes of the dead men.
Some have poured out their feelings to relatives or friends, or talked with colleagues in the close-knit SAR community. A couple said they were inured to such horrors.
"To be honest, I have seen worse," said Hoppe, the C-130 crew member, who has spent 16 years in the Coast Guard. What stood out in his mind, he said, was the compassion the rough-and-tumble scallop fishermen showed that night.
Dave Foreman said he was gratified to switch on the television a week after the disaster and see all six of the men he pulled from the raft, walking on their own down the aisle of a Norfolk church, attending a memorial service for the dead and missing.
Ben Bradley, who witnessed only nightmarish deaths on the night of the Bow Mariner, said: "As horrible as all this was, I feel a sense of pride at having been associated with it. I think we did everything we possibly could have done."
And as several SAR crew members pointed out, the job offers little time to dwell on loss, and constant opportunities for redemption.
Eleven days after the Bow Mariner sinking, a Jayhawk helicopter from Elizabeth City rescued three people from a sailboat drifting helpless in a gale 85 miles off the coast of Cape Fear, N.C.

Contact Bill Geroux at (757) 625-1358 or

18 April 2004

Date :

11 March 2004

Source :

Pilote on Line

Investigation of tanker accident is at a standstill The NOAA ship Rude found the wreckage of the Bow Mariner in about 250 feet of water.

NORFOLK — An investigation into the explosion and sinking of the tanker Bow Mariner is being hampered by lawyers who refuse to allow investigators to interview survivors, the Coast Guard said. “At this point, we are barely under way,” Jerry Crooks, chief investigator for the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Office in Norfolk, said Monday of the 10-day-old probe. “Our investigation is stalled.” Six crewmen, all Filipino nationals, survived the tanker’s sinking off the coast of Virginia on Feb. 28. Three crewmen died, and 18 are missing and presumed dead. All of the survivors have retained lawyers, and four of the crewmen have refused to be interviewed by the Coast Guard, electing to invoke what amounts to 5th Amendment rights against self-incrimination, Crooks said. The two who did talk were the cook and his helper, but Crooks said their knowledge about the incident was limited. Norfolk attorney Carter T. Gunn acknowledged Monday that he had been hired by representatives of Ceres Hellenic Shipping Enterprises Ltd., the Greek shipping company that manages the Bow Mariner. The ship is owned by Norway-based Odfjell ASA. Gunn declined to discuss the case, referring all questions to Jesse W. Lewis Jr., founder and CEO of Admiralty Associates International, a public-affairs company he said specializes in the “sea transportation industry.” Lewis said the ship’s owners and managers were not impeding the investigation and that the company was providing information requested by the Coast Guard. “The respective owners and manager of the vessel are fully cooperating with the Coast Guard,” Lewis said. “They are working on some procedural issues that we hope are resolved very soon.” Lewis acknowledged that the surviving crewmen have lawyers, but said he did not know if the crewmen or the company had hired them. Crooks said the survivors are being issued subpoenas to appear before an informal Coast Guard hearing in Norfolk on Friday. The Coast Guard also has made a formal request through the State Department not to issue travel documents to the survivors until it is finished with them, Crooks said. The Bow Mariner exploded and sank approximately 58 miles east of Chincoteague. Sonar images show the 570-foot ship is resting upright in 264 feet of water, portions of its steel deck torn off and missing. It had been carrying a partial cargo of 3.5 million gallons of volatile industrial ethanol, 48,000 gallons of stored diesel fuel and 193,000 gallons of fuel oil. The Coast Guard’s investigation into the Bow Mariner’s sinking is being handled on an informal basis for now, meaning it is being conducted in private and not open to the public. Jurisdiction for the investigation of a foreign-flag ship that sinks beyond the three-mile U.S. territorial limit comes from the International Maritime Organization, a United Nations group based in London. The code allows certain states to exert what is called “substantially interested state” status. “We are a substantially interested state,” Crooks said, “because the vessel sank in our exclusive economic zone, there was environmental damage and the ship’s seaworthiness was affected.”  While the lead investigating state was Singapore, where the Bow Mariner is flagged, it requested that the Coast Guard take charge. Crooks declined to say what sanctions could be taken against the owners or operators if negligence is found. Lewis said a manifest listing crew members who are dead and missing was being withheld “at the request of the families.”  He did provide a list of the survivors and their jobs on the ship: Edimar Aguilar, 2nd engineer; James Bactat, electrician; Dominador Marentes, chief cook; Lugen Ortilano, 3rd officer; Ramon Ronquillo, seaman; and Reynaldo Tagle, messman, or cook’s helper. No ages or home addresses were available. The Bow Mariner was en route from New York, where it had partially unloaded its cargo, and was headed to Houston after picking up the cargo in a foreign port.


Reach Jack Dorsey at 446-2284 or


Date :

6 March 2004

Source :

Daily Press


Bow Mariner met an explosive end, images suggest  Large parts of ship's deck are missing; oil recovery suspended By Dave Schleck

Daily Press Published March 6, 2004 Sonar images released Friday show the sunken Bow Mariner with huge chunks missing from the deck, an eerie sign of the violent explosions the ship and its crew experienced before sinking 260 feet into the Atlantic.

"It obviously had some catastrophic explosions before it sank," said Lt. Todd Haupt, executive officer of the sonar ship. "There are portions of the deck and the bow that are missing." Sonar provided a color-coded, three-dimensional view of the ship, 50 miles off Virginia's Eastern Shore. The smokestack seems in place on the stern of the 570-foot ship, as does the jackstaff on the bow, where the Bow Mariner's flag once flew. But most of the deck is missing from the left and right sides. There appears to be a break sliced through the deck near the bow, with wreckage piled up on the seafloor nearby. We do this every day," Haupt said. "And it's amazing to us." Coast Guard officials would not speculate on what caused the damage, but a spokesman for the recovery efforts played down the importance of the sonar images. "They are beautiful," said George Nelson, spokesman for the shipping company that managed the Bow Mariner. "However, they really don't show a lot." The sonar ship, the Rude (pronounced Rudy), is a 210-foot vessel operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It routinely searches shipping channels for underwater hazards and obstructions. The ship uses multibeam sonar affixed to a pole that's put into the ocean. The sonar sends 240 sound beams into the water in a fan shape that in this case covered the entire length of the ship. Oil recovery stopped Friday, as the ship that has been removing small oil slicks about 18 miles east of the wreckage couldn't find any more areas to treat and sought protection from bad weather forecast for this weekend.
Sonar images also showed what appeared to be a coating of oil on the Bow Mariner, but Nelson said it wasn't unusual for a sunken ship to have several slow oil leaks. "That's not a stunner," he said. Ceres Hellenic Shipping Enterprises, the Greek company that managed the Bow Mariner, is filing claims with its insurance company to pay for the cleanup effort. The Coast Guard paid for the search and rescue. There are no running tallies yet on the cost of either operation, Nelson said. A submersible craft with cameras will likely take underwater images of the wreck next week. The recovery team plans to use underwater hoses to remove the remaining oil and chemicals. The Bow Mariner carried 48,000 gallons of diesel fuel, 190,000 gallons of fuel oil and 3.2 million gallons of ethanol when an explosion sank the ship last Saturday night. Six crewmen survived, three died and 18 remain missing. Dave Schleck can be reached at 247-7430 or by e-mail at


Date :

4 March 2004

Source :

Daily Press


Salvage ship begins cleaning oil slicks caused by Bow Mariner's sinking

By Dave Schleck

Daily Press

Published March 4, 2004, 10:31 AM EST

For the first time since Saturday's deadly tanker explosion, a salvage ship was able to skim oil off the ocean's surface Wednesday near the sunken Bow Mariner about 50 miles off the coast of Virginia.

Helicopters guided an oil recovery vessel to several tiny oil slicks. Rough seas earlier in the week made recovering the oil impossible. Earlier flyovers found only an unsalvageable sheen of oil spread out in thin sheets over a 9-square-mile area around the wreck.

Coast Guard officials said the amount of oil recovered Wednesday afternoon was minimal, but the salvage ship Virginia Responder and its 16-member crew would continue skimming oil today.

The 210-foot ship surrounded the oil pockets with a floating boom to contain the spill, then used a skimmer to suck oil into a 4,000-barrel tank. An industrial decanter onboard the ship separates the water from the oil.

The Marine Spill Response Corp., one of many companies that are part of the recovery effort, operates the Virginia Responder as part of its fleet of 15 oil spill response vessels nationwide.

It will probably be months before the Coast Guard finds and announces the cause of the Bow Mariner explosion, which left six survivors, three crew members confirmed dead and 18 presumed dead. The ship was carrying 48,000 gallons of diesel fuel, 190,000 gallons of fuel oil and 3.2 million gallons of ethanol. The Coast Guard doesn't know how much spilled.

A sonar ship will try today for a second time to get clear images of the wreck. The Coast Guard is also looking for an available submersible vessel with underwater cameras that can photograph the sunken ship, said Chief Petty Officer Steve Carleton.

After looking at the wreckage, it's likely the recovery team will try to remove the remaining diesel fuel and fuel oil from the ship using underwater hoses, said George Nelson, spokesman for the Bow Mariner's managing company - Ceres Hellenic Shipping Enterprises.

"It's almost as likely that they will also remove and recover the ethanol," he said.

Dave Schleck can be reached at 247-7430 or by e-mail at


Date :

3 March 2004

Source :

Daily Press


Sunken tanker's images unclear Rough seas disrupt survey ship's sonar By Dave Schleck Daily Press Published March 3, 2004 A survey ship dodging high seas and debris produced only distorted sonar views of the sunken Bow Mariner on Tuesday, three days after an explosion sank the tanker 50 miles off the Eastern Shore, leaving three confirmed dead and 18 presumed dead. The 570-foot ship rests upright about 265 feet below the ocean's surface, with the bow facing the northeast. It appears to be in one piece," said Lt. Cmdr. Tod Schattgen, commanding officer of the Norfolk-based Rude, a 90-foot survey ship with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Bow Mariner was heading south from New Jersey to Texas at the time of the accident. But surveyors found the ship facing the opposite direction. Coast Guard officials said they weren't sure why. After the last of six survivors was released from a Norfolk hospital Tuesday afternoon, the Coast Guard waited for the return of Rude, pronounced "Rudy," early this morning. It took nearly 11 hours for the Rude to reach the wreckage site before starting sonar runs at daybreak Tuesday. The same survey ship found John F. Kennedy Jr.'s sunken plane off the Massachusetts coast in 1999 and the TWA flight 800 wreckage off of New York in 1996. Tuesday the small ship had to steer its way around floating, unraveled mooring lines that appear to still be attached to the bow of the sunken ship. Seas were 6 to 8 feet with sustained winds of 35 mph. "It was pretty rough," said Schattgen, speaking from his ship's satellite phone Tuesday evening. "We usually like much calmer water to do our acoustic work." Sidescan sonar emits and collects sound energy from an underwater, torpedo-shaped bell that is towed behind the survey ship. It scans the bottom for shipwrecks and navigational hazards, producing black and white images. The darker images, produced by stronger sound waves, show protrusions on the ocean's floor. Rough seas disrupted the sonar's tow craft, which distorted the images so badly that Schattgen couldn't really decipher anything about damage to the ship. Coast Guard investigators hope sonar will help them determine the cause of the accident and whether the damage makes it necessary to pump out any remaining oil in the ship. On the surface, Schattgen found no signs of dead marine life, despite an oil sheen that covered the area. The Coast Guard has an oil recovery vessel at the wreckage site and may conduct a fly-over today to decide whether the oil pockets have cooled off enough to salvage, said Chief Petty Officer Steve Carleton. The ship was carrying 48,000 gallons of diesel fuel, 190,000 gallons of fuel oil and 3.2 million gallons of ethanol - a water-soluble fuel derived from corn, wheat or barley. Carleton said the oil is moving away from shore, much of it in small pools that range from coin-sized to 4 feet wide."Any oil that's coming out is coming out at a slow enough pace that it's breaking up and heading out to sea," Carleton said.


Dave Schleck can be reached at 247-7430 or by e-mail at


Date :

2 March 2004

Source :

Times Dispach


Search ends for 18 missing in blast

21 apparently killed when vessel exploded and sank off Virginia



Tuesday, March 2, 2004

PORTSMOUTH - The Coast Guard stopped searching yesterday for 18 missing crew members of the chemical tanker Bow Mariner, which exploded and sank Saturday evening off the coast of Chincoteague.The last of the six survivors of the sinking was to be released from a Norfolk hospital today. The end of the search apparently brings the toll to 21 lives, counting three crew members who have been confirmed dead. That would make the Bow Mariner explosion and sinking the region's worst maritime disaster since Feb. 12, 1983, when the collier Marine Electric went down in a storm off Chincoteague and 31 lives were lost.Yesterday, a lone Coast Guard C-130 Hercules plane spent the morning hours on a final search for the missing crewmen of the Bow Mariner before Rear Adm. Sally Brice-O'Hara, commander of the Coast Guard's mid-Atlantic region, ended the search at 1 p.m."The decision to call off a search when there are still people missing is one of the most difficult decisions I have to make," Brice-O'Hara said in a statement. "It is my sincere hope the friends and family know we did everything in our power to find their loved ones." The Coast Guard said its crews searched 30 grid patterns covering roughly 70 square miles over parts of three days, expending more than 3,500 man-hours.Authorities continued to withhold the names of the dead and missing yesterday, saying they still had not contacted all of the next of kin. The Bow Mariner's crew included 24 Filipinos and three Greeks, the ship's senior officers. All six survivors were Filipinos, who apparently were below decks in their berths shortly after 6 p.m. Saturday when a huge explosion rocked the ship. Coast Guard officials said the survivors made their way to the main deck and into a large life raft, where they huddled, shivering and coated with black bunker oil, until a rescue helicopter picked them up.None of the survivors were burned, but all suffered some combination of hypothermia and exposure to noxious fumes from the ship's fuel and its cargo of ethanol, said a spokeswoman for Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, where the men were taken. Three of the six were released from the hospital on Sunday morning. Two others left yesterday, and the last was to be released this morning. All have declined to speak to reporters. The 570-foot Bow Mariner was a Singapore-flagged vessel owned by the Norwegian firm Odfjell and operated by the Greek company Ceres Hellenic Shipping Enterprises Ltd. It sank in international waters, but authorities in Singapore have asked the Coast Guard to lead the investigation. The Bow Mariner was carrying 3.5 million gallons of crude industrial ethanol, a form of fuel and gasoline additive that can be used as a solvent in the manufacture of varnishes and perfumes. It is highly flammable, and its vapor can produce explosive mixtures with air. Jan Hammer, a senior vice president of Odfjell, said Sunday that the vessel's tanks were partly empty but were equipped with valves to relieve pressure from evaporating alcohol. Four of the tanker's crew were apparently working on deck when the blast occurred, the Coast Guard said, but it was not certain what tasks they were performing. Investigators are examining the debris collected from the wreck site and the available information about the Bow Mariner and explosions that have wrecked similar vessels, said George Nelson, a spokesman for the Unified Command, an interagency group convened by the Coast Guard to deal with the disaster.The Unified Command includes the Coast Guard Captain of the Port, Virginia and Maryland environmental officials, and representatives of the vessel's owners and managers. Nelson said investigators have interviewed at least one of the survivors. He said they have not decided whether to send divers to search for clues in the wreckage, which rests at a depth of about 264 feet, roughly 50 miles off Chincoteague. The Coast Guard will release its findings in a report, possibly after a public inquiry, Nelson said. The disaster appears to pose no serious environmental consequences, he said. The Virginia Responder, an oil-cleanup vessel, spent yesterday searching the wreck site in vain for a concentration of fuel oil significant enough to clean up. A northwest wind and wave action has been pushing what remains of the spilled oil out to sea. The ethanol is dissolving quickly in the ocean, Nelson said.

Contact Bill Geroux at (757) 625-1358 or


Date :

29 February 2004

Source :



Press Release Source: Odfjell


UPDATE - Tragic Loss of Bow Mariner


Sunday February 29, 1:53 pm ET


OSLO, Norway, Feb. 29 /PRNewswire/ -- Odfjell is deeply saddened that lives were lost when BOW MARINER sank in international waters outside the coast of Virginia last night.
The vessel had a crew of 27 whereof 24 Filipino and 3 Greek. Nine crewmembers are picked up but three of these are deceased. 18 are still missing and search operations are ongoing in the area. Five of the rescued crewmembers are reportedly in good condition, while the condition of the sixth is stable and improving.
BOW MARINER sank after an explosion and fire. The cause of the accident is not established and the ship's flag state authority, Singapore, has asked the US Coast Guard to carry out investigation on their behalf. Odfjell as Owner and Ceres as Managers have representatives on scene and will support and assist with the operation and the investigation.

Over-flights have been made by US Coast Guard but no decision as to initiating any clean up has been made. Clean up personnel and equipment are available and on stand by.

BOW MARINER was subject to periodical routine inspections in North America last year. No deficiencies where found during an inspection in Vancouver. In the last inspection in Philadelphia in October five insignificant deficiencies were noted. These were corrected immediately and the ship sailed without delay. Also the classification society, Det Norske Veritas, has done periodical routine inspections. Class records are clean without any conditions of class issued.

Press contact Odfjell: Jan Hammer, phone +47 55 27 00 00

Press contact Ceres: George Papaiounou, phone +30 210 4591005

The Internet home page will be updated as further information is available.

Odfjell is a leading company in the global market of transporting and storing of chemicals and related logistical services. The fleet totals 89 ships, trading both globally and regionally, of which 47 is owned by the group. Odfjell additionally owns and operates tank terminals and tank containers.

Ceres Hellenic Shipping Enterprises is managing a wide range of various vessels. Currently the managed fleet is 42 vessels.


Date :

29 February 2004

Source :



The Odfjell chemical carrier Bow Mariner has sank about 50 nautical miles off the US east coast following a devastating explosion.

At least three crew members are reported dead, six have been rescued and are in hospital, with 18 still missing.

A major rescue operation is taking place in cold waters off the coast of Virginia so the outlook for the missing crew members is bleak.

Bergen based Odfjell said it was “deeply saddened by this tragic accident that has caused loss of life.”

The 27 crew members comprised 24 Filipinos plus Greek master, chief engineer and first officer.

The 40,000-dwt Bow Mariner (built 1982) was sailing from New York to Texas City with a cargo of 11,000 tonnes of ethanol at the time of the explosion.

The cause of the explosion is currently unknown but the sea was calm at the time of the disaster.

The ship sent a mayday message to the US Coast Guard saying there was a fire on deck. An explosion followed, so it could be that the cargo had somehow begun to leak from the vessel’s tanks.

One of the hospitalised crew members is reported to be in a critical condition, two seriously injured while three are well and could be discharged today.

The Split built vessel had a run-in with the US Coast Guard in October when five deficiencies were recorded during a port state control inspection.

These related to defective cargo level alarms, a leak from a deck hydraulic line and the shutdown mechanism for the emergency pumps as well as documentary deficiencies. Classification society confirmation of repair was received in each case.

Odfjell vice president, Jan Hammer, tells TradeWinds the Bow Mariner was vetted by oil company representatives in New York immediately before its final voyage and there were no outstanding recommendations against the vessel.

Hammer rules out any link between the earlier US Coast Guard detected deficiencies and the tragedy.

He said Odfjell hoped to have some insight into the cause of the tragedy once the survivors are interviewed.

The Singapore flag Bow Mariner is classed by Det Norske Veritas and has protection and indemnity cover from the Britannia Club who will pick up the bill for compensating the seafarers families and any pollution or wreck removal operations required.

Odfjell said that ethanol was a water-soluble alcohol and classified as a Marpol appendix three cargo. As such it has low toxicity and a negligible impact on the marine environment.

The Bow Mariner also had more than 700 tonnes of fuel oil in its bunker tanks. This poses a pollution risk although no oil is reported to have yet leaked from the wreck.

The Bow Mariner is owned by a Singapore subsidiary of the Norwegian shipowning group, Odfjell Asia II Pte.

The vessel is insured by underwriters led by the Norwegian Hull Club but is not a particularly valuable ship having a market worth of $10m or less.

The vessel is managed by Piraeus based Ceres Hellenic Shipping Enterprises, the Livanos family company that is Odfjell’s joint venture partner, but commercial operation is carried out by Odfjell from Bergen.

The tragedy comes as two Odfjell top executives, Bjorn Sjaastad and Erik Nilsen are serving time in a Florida jail for contravening US anti-trust laws.

Odfjell also paid a huge $42.5m fine for price fixing with key competitors in the parcel tanker business.


Tradewinds : 29 février 2004


Date :

29 février 2004

Source :

Le nouvel Observateur


AP 29.02.04 | 07:18


PORTSMOUTH, Virginie (AP) -- Un chimiquier transportant de l'éthanol industriel a explosé et sombré samedi soir à environ 80km au large des côtes de Virginie, selon les gardes-côtes. Au moins trois des 27 membres d'équipage ont été tués et les équipes de secours étaient à la recherche d'autres survivants.

Huit personnes ont été transportées à l'hôpital de Norfolk (Maryland), selon la porte-parole Vicky Gray. Deux d'entre eux sont morts. Parmi les six survivants, un est dans un état critique, deux autres dans un état grave et trois souffrent d'hypothermie.

Trois personnes ont été admises à l'hôpital Atlantic General de Berlin (Maryland), selon Robert Wocubik, de l'accueil des patients, qui a précisé qu'une d'entre elles était morte. Les deux autres ont été soignés pour des blessures légères puis autorisés à quitter l'établissement. Le troisième membre d'équipage décédé a été évacué au centre médical régional de Salisbury (Maryland).

Trois hélicoptères, autant de bateaux des gardes-côtes et un avion C-130, étaient à la recherche de survivants.

Le «Bow Mariner», un tanker de 171m de long battant pavillon de Singapour, avait lancé un appel de détresse à 6h00 locales (23h00 GMT), expliquant qu'une explosion s'était produite à bord, selon le garde-côte de Portsmouth (Virginie) Stacey Pardini. Le navire effectuait la liaison entre New York et Houston avec 24 Philippins et trois Grecs à son bord.

L'explosion s'est produite après un incendie sur le pont du bateau, a déclaré le lieutenant Chris Shaffer, des services d'urgence d'Ocean City (Maryland). «Quand les plongeurs sont arrivés sur les lieux, le chimiquier était en feu, coulait et il y avait plusieurs personnes à l'eau», a-t-il expliqué.

Selon le chef des gardes-côtes, John Moss, le tanker transportait 13,3 millions de litres d'éthanol au moment de l'accident mais qu'il restait encore à évaluer la quantité de produit déversé dans les eaux. L'origine de l'explosion n'était pas encore connue quelques heures après le drame. «Nous n'avons pour l'instant aucune indication prouvant que ce n'était pas un accident», a souligné John Moss. AP






Sources :  



Hull :

TBA Cargo : TBA
Liability : TBA Fees : TBA
Others : TBA    

Sources :




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