Improper venting may have caused Texas barge explosion

Two men welding aboard an empty crude oil barge in Texas escaped injury when the vessel exploded, throwing one of the workers onto the dock and the other into the water.

The 240-foot MOC II was being cleaned and prepared for fertilizer service at Superior Docks in Ingleside when the explosion occurred at about 1500 on March 25.

Lt. Nick Leiter, public affairs officer for U.S. Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi, said a welder and his assistant decided to vent the space they were working in by “unconventional means,” which failed and led to the explosion. Further details were not provided.
The barge MOC II is heavily damaged after an explosion at Superior Docks in Ingleside, Texas. The Coast Guard said a welding team may not have vented their area properly.
Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
The blast threw the welder into the water and blew out the windows of the 66-foot tugboat Shirley Mahone, which was 100 yards away in Redfish Bay, the Coast Guard
reported. The barge and tug are owned by Third Coast Towing of Corpus Christi.


Bystanders assisted the man from the water, and both workers were examined at the scene for injuries, Leiter said. Neither required medical treatment.

Coast Guard Station Port Aransas dispatched a 25-foot response boat and a 45-foot response boat, both of which arrived at Superior Docks at 1523. An HH-65C helicopter from Naval Air Station Corpus Christi surveyed the damage from overhead.

Containment booms were placed around the barge as a precaution, but the only pollution reported was a 20-foot-by-50-foot sheen caused by residual oil aboard the barge, the Coast Guard said.

“We were pretty lucky on this,” said Jimmy Martinez, regional director for the Texas General Land Office, a state agency that leases drilling rights for oil and gas production on state lands and oversees an oil spill prevention and response program. “First, that no one was killed or seriously injured, and even in an explosion of that magnitude the men walked away. Also, that at the time of the explosion there was no product on board. We could’ve had a huge mess in Redfish Bay.”

Vincent Tamburin, operations assistant for Third Coast Towing, said MOC II sustained extensive damage and was scrapped. He could not provide a damage estimate for either the barge or the windows aboard Shirley Mahone.

Leiter said the incident is under investigation by the Coast Guard.

By Professional Mariner Staff