Skip to content

Sansinena; Los Angeles Harbor, California

Los Angeles Harbor, California | 1976-Dec-17

Initial Notification: At 1938 on December 17, 1976, the Sansinena exploded, caught fire, and sank during refueling at the Union Oil Terminal, Berth 46, in Los Angeles Harbor, California. The vessel was loaded with 22,000 barrels of Bunker C at the time of the incident. The apparent cause was a still-air situation that developed between the mid-ship house and the afterdeck house. Vapors emitting from the cargo tank vents created a vapor cloud during ballasting. These were ignited in the midship house and flashed back through the vent piping system. The largest explosion took place in the number 10 center cargo tank. The force of the explosion propelled the main deck over the cargo tanks into the air. When the deck landed, it severed a 36-inch cargo line on top of the inshore isolation valve. This severed line fed fuel to the fire until response personnel discovered and capped it on December 21. Nine lives were lost as a result of the explosion. Debris and oil scattered in all directions. Approximately 400 boats in the vicinity were damaged by the fine mist of airborne oil, resulting in millions of dollars in property damage. An estimated 30,000 barrels of oil were released into Los Angeles harbor from the ship and the severed pipeline. A U.S. Coast Guard boat and a Los Angeles City Fire Department boat arrived on-scene within five minutes of the explosion to assist in firefighting and rescue operations. Pollution surveys were conducted after the fire was under control. Initial reports concluded that much of the oil had burned off, but on December 19, underwater divers discovered a large quantity of oil on the bottom of the harbor. The primary cleanup contractors were IT Corporation, Crowley Environmental Services, Crosby & Overton, Inc., and Fred Devine Diving and Salvage, Inc. Boom deployment began within two hours of the explosion. Boom and other containment gear were utilized for the next 120 days, while mechanical removal of oil from the bottom of the harbor continued for 16 months. Total oil removal costs exceeded three million dollars. USCG district 11. Keyword: Boom, manual removal, self-contained skimming devices, sorbent pads, sub-surface oil, suction operations, fire, explosion, sinking..

Incident Details
Primary threat:Oil
Products of concern:Bunker C
Total amount at risk of spill: 30,000 barrels
Latitude (approximate): 33° 43.00′ North
Longitude (approximate): 118° 16.02′ West