Mobile River, mile marker 0
30°41.14' N, 88°01.55' W
NTSB Number: MAB-14-13
Adopted: July 14, 2014
On April 24, 2013, at 2030 local time, the towing vessel Safety Runner docked on the Mobile River in Mobile, Alabama, alongside two Kirby barges that were having their tanks cleaned. Shortly thereafter, flammable vapors being vented from the barges' open tank hatches entered the Safety Runner's engine room and ignited. The fire spread from the towing vessel to the barges, resulting in explosions. Three persons sustained serious burn injuries. The total damage to the vessel and barges was estimated at $5.7million.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the fire and explosions involving towing vessel Safety Runner and Kirby barges 28182 and 28194 was the failure of the ORC Facility to isolate tank-cleaning operations from sources of ignition. Contributing to the accident was ORC's failure to provide its employees with tank-cleaning training and procedures that followed industry standards and government regulations for reducing the risk of fire during tank-cleaning operations.