NTSB cites inadequate project planning in fatal Texas dredge fire

(WASHINGTON) — On Aug. 21, 2020, about 0802 Central Daylight Time, the U.S.-flagged dredge Waymon L. Boyd struck a submerged 16-inch liquid propane pipeline during dredging operations in Corpus Christi, Texas.

A geyser of propane gas and water erupted adjacent to the vessel. Shortly thereafter, propane gas engulfed the vessel and an explosion occurred. Fire damaged the vessel and surrounding shoreline. Eighteen personnel employed by Orion Marine Group were working or resting on the dredge and assist boats (tender boats, anchor barges, booster barges, and a supply barge) on the day of the accident.

Three crewmembers aboard Waymon L. Boyd and one on an adjacent anchor barge died in the explosion and fire. Six crewmembers aboard the dredge were injured, one of whom later died from his injuries. Waymon L. Boyd, valued at $9.48 million, was a total loss. The cost of pipeline damage was $2.09 million. The cost of physical damage to the EPIC facility was $120,000.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that the probable cause of this accident was Orion Marine Group’s inadequate planning and risk management processes, which failed to identify the proximity of its dredging operation to Enterprise Products’ pipeline TX219 and resulted in the absence of effective controls to prevent the dredge’s cutterhead from striking the pipeline.

Contributing to the accident were deficient dredging plans provided by Schneider Engineering and Consulting, which resulted in incomplete and inaccurate information communicated to Enterprise Products by Orion Marine Group during the one-call process, which resulted in insufficient measures to protect the pipeline from excavation damage.

​As a result of this investigation, the NTSB made recommendations to the companies involved in the accident to implement or update policies and procedures for dredging near pipelines. The agency also made recommendations to a federal regulator and industry organizations about developing additional guidance and training specific to pipeline protection for marine dredging projects and establishing tolerance zone guidance for marine construction and dredging projects near pipelines.

Click here to read a synopsis of the complete NTSB report.

By Professional Mariner Staff