Two marine inspection experts described allegedly poor maintenance practices on board Bouchard Barge No. 255, which exploded and burned off Texas on October 20th 2017, while testifying at the Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston hearing investigating the incident.
Two crewmembers were killed in the explosion.
Shawn Garry, Bouchard’s former VP of Regulatory Compliance and Inspections, told investigators that the barge might have been in less than ideal material condition when he visited it after the accident. “There was definitely some deterioration going on the tank top and the deck area, whether or not that was the cause of it or not,” Garry said, adding that “the material condition of the barge was kind of shocking . . . Extreme wastage, conduit wastage, thin metal, tank top pits.” He also said that the work environment, was high-pressure and challenging, even at times intimidating.
Lt Gregory Kennerley, a Coast Guard inspector for Sector Saint Petersburg, described challenges in working with company representatives during a shipyard period for another barge in the operator’s fleet after the accident voyage involving the No. 255. Kennerley provided inspection and oversight during a yard period for the Bouchard No. 295, including site visits in December 2017 and January 2018, months after the explosion. His duties included monitoring and reviewing thickness gauging for steel plating on the barge’s main deck and cargo tank expansion domes, then identifying areas requiring repair. He alleged that he had experienced difficulties in obtaining gauging reports from company representatives for the exact areas he identified for inspection.
“When I asked about the gauging for the domes, [the representative] said that it had already been done and would send me the report,” Kennerley told the hearing, adding that, in the report with which he was supplied, “four [tests] were completed at the bottom of the domes, but I had requested gauging at the tops, since that’s where the wastage occurred. That was the first issue that day, and I asked them to re-gauge that. Eventually those gauge reports did come back as deficient, and they replaced all of those expansion domes,” he said.
Kennerley described another incident in which he had pointed to pitting on the deck plates and asked that the technician gauge a specific pit. The company representative present allegedly instructed the technician to obtain a gauge at a location one inch away, where pitting was not present, Kennerley asserted. When directed again to the site of the pitting, the technician determined a gauge of 0.15 inches in thickness. This value was deemed deficient, requiring replacement.
The Coast Guard hearings on the Bouchard No. 255 explosion continue.