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From Rhode Island News

Tanker has 'spotless' inspection record, owner says
Nordeuropa's Danish parent company praises the crew for maneuvering the ship out of harm's way without the aid of tugboats.

The crew of the tanker Nordeuropa was aided in getting the 600-foot vessel away from the inferno on a Providence pier Tuesday night by the fact that the fire melted some of the ship's mooring lines.

A spokesman for the ship's Danish parent company said the crew also managed to maneuver the ship without the aid of tugboats.

"As a company, we are absolutely very proud about how they got that ship out of harm's way," said Jim Lawrence, an American spokesman for the parent firm, Dampskibsselskabet Norden A/S.

Lawrence said the captain, Leif Nielsen, has 20 years of experience and the six-year-old vessel has a "spotless" record of safety and maintenance inspections.

The ship sailed into the Providence River on Tuesday from Boston and had nearly completed offloading 3.15 million gallons of gasoline when a fireball erupted on the pier.

The ship was on a "split run," which means it planned to go on to another port, in this case New Haven. That means it still carried a sizable amount of fuel that could have ignited if the ship wasn't moved to safety. Fire officials couldn't say how much fuel remained onboard.

The ship was moored off Jamestown yesterday, where it was undergoing inspections by the Coast Guard and the classification societies that inspect vessels for insurance purposes, Lawrence said.

He said there was no downtime for the crew under normal cir***stances, and after Tuesday night's incident the crew was busier than ever, so the company declined to make them available for interviews.

The company had no further comment beyond saying the accident remained under investigation.

The Nordeuropa was completed in 2000 at the Daedong Shipbuilding Co. in South Korea.

In dozens of inspections by the Coast Guard in Boston, Long Island Sound and Jacksonville, Fla., as well as by Canadian officials, the ship was cited for only a handful of minor deficiencies.

Lawrence said the ship was operating "milk runs" -- short, repetitious trips along the East Coast.

It is owned by an independent shipping company whose stock is listed on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange. The company operates about 125 bulk carriers and tankers.

Tankers do not unload fuel right at the shore at Motiva. Instead, they tie up to a wharf that extends about 1,000 feet into the Providence River. About 700 feet from shore is the "transfer manifold," a 40-foot-tall metal structure that contains the pipes and hoses that connect tankers to a couple of dozen storage tanks on shore.

The manifold is designed to be so far out in the water that, in the event of a fire, the flames won't threaten storage tanks on land.

On Tuesday night, the hoses connecting the tanker to the transfer manifold broke, allowing gasoline to flow onto the dock and into the water, according to the Coast Guard. Something then caused a spark -- investigators are looking at the possibility it was a lightning strike or a static electricity discharge from the fuel flowing through the hoses.

During the offloading process, tankers are required to keep their engines in "immediate standby" status, allowing the ship to pull away from the dock quickly in the event of an emergency. Also, as the tanks are drained during the offloading process, the empty space is filled with an inert gas so the tanks lack oxygen to feed fire.


Rushie
 

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What the Captain says....

From Boston.com -

Captain of Danish ship says drills helped pull crew to safety
July 20, 2006

PROVIDENCE, R.I. --Practice in emergency drills saved a Danish ship and its crew from a massive fire that engulfed the Port of Providence dock where the ship was unloading gasoline, the ship's captain said Thursday.

In his first public statement since the fire, Leif Nielsen, captain of the 600-foot tanker Nordeuropa, said the drills taught his crew what to do late Tuesday night after the dock burst into flames when lightning struck nearby.

"We train and drill and refine practices, and it was a matter of considerable pride to me to see all that effort come through on Tuesday night," Nielsen said in a statement sent by e-mail to The Associated Press.

Gov. Don Carcieri has asked for an investigation into why workers were unloading gasoline during a lightning storm predicted hours before the fire. Coast Guard officials say they're looking into that question as part of their investigation.

The Nordeuropa was en route from Boston to New Haven, Conn., when it stopped to unload fuel at a Providence terminal operated by Motiva Enterprises, a Houston-based partnership between Saudi Refining Inc. and Shell Oil Co.

The ship began unloading the gasoline at 4 p.m., hours before the storm started, said Brian Delaney, a spokesman for Motiva.

Forecasters at the National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm watch late Tuesday morning, meteorologist Kim Buttrick said. A radar in Taunton, Mass., detected the storm around 8 p.m. Buttrick said the weather service issued a thunderstorm warning for Providence 90 minutes later.

The lightening strike that apparently started the fire hit about 10:30 p.m. It is not clear whether it hit the dock or ship.

Most of the fire was extinguished by early Wednesday, but firefighters continued Thursday to battle difficult-to-reach hot spots under the dock, Delaney said.

The Nordeuropa pulled away from the dock after the fire started and was anchored in Jamestown on Thursday for inspections.
 
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