‘Inert gas caused death of sailors on LPG tanker’

A preliminary investigation into Monday's death of five officers on board the LPG tanker points out that the team of officers had "disassembled a spectacle blind (also called spectacle flange or figure-8 blind used to prevent or start gas flow in a pipe system) without shutting off inert gas supply, leading to their asphyxiation.

Vessel owner Varun Shipping Company, after conducting the preliminary investigations sent this finding late on Thursday to the Bombay Stock Exchange, being a listed company.

On Monday, six officers on board the Dubai-bound LPG carrier fainted in the compressor room when the vessel was 120 nautical miles off the Gujarat coast. Five of them died of asphyxiation. Coast Guard airlifted the sixth man who had fainted to a hospital in Porbandar in Gujarat.

The Company letter reads that "removal of the spectacle blind without shutting off inert gas supply and failure to ensure there was no inert gas in the pipe caused inert gas to be released into the compressor room causing asphyxiation."

It adds the vessel was undergoing a standard gas-freeing operation and there was no gas leakage, fire explosion or vessel damage. The ship was sailing from Mangalore to Dubai after discharging cargo and was expected to undergo repairs. While the Mercantile Marine Department at Kandla in Gujarat is looking into the matter, the Directorate General of Shipping is also probing it.

A company spokesperson confirmed the development.

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