Tom S
6th February 2007, 09:01
Jeedee has posted a picture of the Shell Tanker "Rapana" I remember I am sure it was about 1990 I was Manager at Methil Docks when this Tanker anchored off the port after having a serious accident onboard if I remember there were three people killed in the pump room I think it was the Superintendent the Chief Off and a Cadet. It was a major incident at the time and the first time the Fife Fire and Rescue had ever been involved in a shipboard incident. Does anyone remeber the details of what happened it was kept very hush hush at the time?

6th February 2007, 09:55

I was away from Fifeness by the time this incident occurred and all I can find at the moment is from Shell's "Corporate Watch" publication.


In the paragraph titled Explosions (a third of the way through the article) it has the following short entry;

"In June 1990, an explosion on the Shell tanker Rapana, killed three people and serious injured another."

At the end of the piece they list their source as;

Lloyds List, 1990, 'Damaged Shell Tanker "Rapana" Reaches Firth of Forth', Scotland, 28 June, p3

If anyone has access to historical copies of Lloyd's List, it may reveal some more information.

Tom S
6th February 2007, 10:43
Thanks Ray
It was seeing the picture of the vessel that brought back the memory of the incident as I said it was quite serious one of the hatches was blown off. The vessel was in the Forth for quite a while

6th February 2007, 11:36
Happened about 1989- actually have a news report about it on an old videotape with some aerial footage lurking somewhere.
Have been on board her as a bulker at Hunterston.

5th April 2007, 09:31
The accident was a pump room explosion during a tank cleaning procedure. This vessel was notorious in the fleet for her leaks and general unsuitability to carry oil. Cleaning her from Iron Ore and Coal to wet was a nightmare, hence the presence of a superintendent. The unlucky chap in question was Alan Patience, recently promoted to Chief Officer and acting as superintendent. I cannot remember the identity of the articled CO and Cadet who also perished, however the incident had a gruesome quality in that the three killed were attempting to exit the pumproom when the explosion happened (the only survivor from the pump room was chief engineer Dave Gill) - In order to save the vessel the master, whose name I cannot recall, ordered the activation of the pump room foam system which meant that the bodies had to remain in situ until the vessel reached port and could be dug out.

Tom S
5th April 2007, 15:25
Thanks for that I was aware there was more to the story and you have confirmed it. I remember the day they landed the bodies ashore, Some of the Directors from Shell attended at the quayside. it was very quiet and very formal,they didnt speak to anyone just stood quietly by until the whole operation was over and then they were driven off

5th April 2007, 15:33
Abit info on her

Name Rapana (2)
Ex. name(s) San Giusto (1973-1980, ex.Runa 1973)
Imo number 7334163
Year of construction 1973
Discarded in 1991
Status Sold
Class Bulkcarrier
Tonnage 227.408
Yard A/B Gotaverken Arendal
Construction number 867
Cargo Ore / oil
Flag Isle of Man
Callsign MKYW
Owner Shell Tankers U.K.
Relations Rimula (2)

21st September 2007, 08:51
Just to add a further few details,

the explosion was caused by an oil leak in the pumproom. A flange had broken whilst pressure testing lines prior to crude oil washing.

The leak meant that the 4 persons in the pumproom, (cargo superintendant, Chief Off, Chief Eng, and Pumpman) had to use an emergency exit, which was a vertical ladder from the bottom to the top of the pumproom, as oil was leaking over the normal exit ladders.

On top of the pumproom was a bolted hatch, approx 2-3M square.

When the explosion happened the Chief Off, and pumpman where in the top of the pumproom, or just outside the door, the Chief Eng was on the ladder, and the superintendant was at the bottom.

The explosion blew off the hatch at the top of the pumproom, and it was lost overboard.

The chief Off and pumpman were killed by the exlosion.

The Ch Eng was blown out through the hatch and landed on top of the pumproom, or cargo hatch, seriously injuring his legs in the fall. (i heard later that he lost his legs)

The explosion opened up the duct keel, which made the cargo tanks common to the pumproom, and flooded it with oil. The vessel needed help in extinguishing the fire as her foam system did not manage the job due to the damage to the pumproom foam system.

Subsequently the vessel proceeded to Rotterdam I believe, where she was discharged using portable pumps. After this the pumproom was washed clean. There was major damage to the pumproom ladders and ftting, which had fallen to the bottom. all this had to be removed, before eventually the superintent was recovered, all in al about 6 weeks I believe.

The statement about the vessel being unlucky is true, as she then proceeded to Lisbon for repairs, where she suffered a fire in a cargo tank whilst shore workers were removing sludge and sediment prior to the vessel going into the shipyard. 6 yard workers were killed as a result of this fire.

I worked as Third Mate on the Rapana in 1988/1989 approx 6 months prior to the accident, and had spoken to people on board at the time, and during the immediate aftermath.

A tragic incident.

Tom S
21st September 2007, 10:57
many thanks for that I often wondered how the accident really happened. As you say it was a tragic accident

21st September 2007, 13:30
I seem to remember warnings in circulation at that time. If I remember correctly the scource of ignition was a damaged pumproom light fitting, with the damage caused by repair activities at a recent drydocking.

Fire in a sludged up tank with subsequent loss of life is not unlucky, it is just an inappropriate mixture of fuel and flame by the dockyard.

Certainly unfortunate, but bad luck had nothing to do with it.

Tom Doherty
24th September 2012, 04:03
Master Captain Peter Marsland
Chief Officer Dave Cammish
Pumpman Aubin St. Thomas
Superintendent Alan Patience
Chief Engineer David Gill

14th October 2012, 21:50
Sad memories. I joined as XC/O in the Firth after she arrived and was only onboard for a few weeks as I was just back from a 6 month trip in Asia and Shell needed someone with 'Rapana' experience - 3rd mate in early 1981! when we carried both ore then oil. Not a happy ship. If I remember correctly my relief 3/0 had an accident with the lifeboats?

7th March 2013, 20:16
I was onboard at time of incident.
Killed was Alan, the Cargo Superintendent, the Chief Officerand a Bahamian Pump Man. The Chief Engineer was badly hurt.
The explosion was a direct consequence of poor shipmanagement allowing essential services to degrade to unfit state. The market was depressed and Shell went in a the wrong time, thus issues with the two OBO's also operated.
Shell where handing the vesselback to the owner on completion of a bareboat charter. The owners exercised their right for Shell to demonstrate that the vessel was still in suitable condition to carry Crude oil by demanding such a cargo be carried.

The condition was so poor I did hear that the reposnsible Superintendent was asked to explain the actual condition of the vessel against what he had been reporting to senior management. Heresay but likely true.

I could write a book about everything wron but imagine tank hatches being made by measurement before the vessle arived overhanging by several inches and not square to the hatch coaming.despite IG fans running continuouls we never had a positve pressure in a cargo tank.

When we load a cargo the poor condition of valves overhauled on the cheap in MSC yard, Malaysia mean cargo went straight oveboad. Thus a thin steel spade as fitted in a pipe diameter of over 500mm.

The source of the leak was the line became pressurised during a testing operation and the spade buckled and collapsed inwards.

There was a relieving Master in the Cargo Control room who left on one of, if not the first, helicopter that arrvied to remove non-essential staff. Reasons given was to 'co-ordinate ER ashore'. The incumbent Master, Pete Marsden I think, was superb and managed the bridge single handedly as we fought the fire over the following 24 hours or there aboute

The persons named began to exit the pump room and where near or passing through the top entrance when the explosion occurred. the chief engineer was lifted out of the pump room via one of the hatches that where fitted onteh pump room top. It was the loss of these hatches that caused such difficulty in extinguishing the fire.

one or more who where exiting the pump room where blasted against No5 Hatch coaming and broke up over the deck.

The source of ignition was given as a failed Pump room fan bearing ( not likely) or imperfect EEX provision on a light fitting ( very likely).

Every person who remained on board acted highly professionally and where a real credit to themselves, their families, profession and company.

I have the original MAIB report if anybody is interested. there is a lot more but I am probably skirting the borders of libel as it is. Nevertheless I stand by everything stated . I am happy to chat offline if anybody is interested in all the facts.

from myside I suffered mental issues for some time in the form of hullicinations which I resolved without assistance from Shell, as non was offered. I know of at least one other who faired worse and had a short period in Hospital. He had bourne the brunt of the fire fighting and actions to save the Chief Engineer.