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Chevron Hawaii

Deer Park, Texas | 1979-Sep-01

Initial Notification: On September 1, 1979, at 1412, the SS Chevron Hawaii exploded, burned, and sank while discharging cargo at the Deer Park Shell Oil Company terminal on the south side of the Houston ship channel. The cargo of catalytic cracker feedstock and Santa Maria crude oil spilled into the sea as the fire burned for ten hours. Lightning apparently ignited accumulated cargo vapors on the deck of the vessel. None of the cargo tanks had been gas-freed. The explosion was so powerful that a 5 foot by 7 foot hull fragment from the burning vessel penetrated the roof of a Shell Oil Company petroleum product shore tank located 600 feet inland from the vessel. The contents of that shore tank, approximately 26,000 barrels of ethyl alcohol, ignited and burned as well. As the fire spread into a nearby barge slip, four barges that were discharging cargo caught fire. Three of these barges exploded and sank. No significant amount of pollution came from any of these four barges. Weather during the incident was warm and windy with heavy downpours and lightning. The maximum reported wind gust for the day was 33 knots, at 1300. The fireboat M/V Captain F. L. Farnsworth, which had been moored 2.5 nautical miles from the terminal, was on-scene by 1430. Four boats and 14 Coast Guard personnel assisted in fire fighting and lifesaving operations. Two Coast Guard pollution team investigators from the Houston Port Safety Station were already on their way to the Shell terminal when the accident occurred. They led the rescue of the burning vessel's boatswain from the forecastle. Representatives from both the USCG Pacific and Gulf Strike Teams (PST and AST) monitored all phases of the cleanup. Eighteen different cleanup companies were involved in the cleanup operations. Since the spill occurred over a holiday weekend, it was difficult to recruit companies with equipment specifically needed for this spill. One crew member and two radar repairmen aboard the SS Chevron Hawaii were killed and 13 people were injured. Even though six tugs were available within the barge slip, no attempt was made by the Shell Oil Company dockman or the tugboat operators to move any adjacent barges into the channel where they might have been safe from the fire. Also, the dockman left the scene without activating the emergency cut-off switch. This would have assured that any adjacent barges' cargo openings were properly secured. Damages to the vessel, barges and facility exceeded $27,000,000. USCG district 8. Keyword: Vacalls, vacuum truck, oil mop machines, skimmers, manual removal, water-washing, absorbents, salvage, Gulf Strike Team (GST), Atlantic Strike Team (AST), explosion, fire, sinking, adverse weather conditions, boom, reoiling..

Incident Details
Products of concern:Santa Maria Crude oil, Catalytic cracker feedstock
Latitude (approximate): 29° 42.00′ North
Longitude (approximate): 95° 8.00′ West