A small explosion resulted in a fire on the tanker MV Thalassa Desgagnes, while she was in lay up at section 25 of the Port of Montreal, yesterday Saturday February 13th, 2010. Local news report have said that the fire was contained rapidly by 35 fire fighters who responded in eight trucks. The accident is said to have sent one man to hospital with burns to his face and arms and left another in shock. The source of the explosion is still unclear from news reports, but would suggest that an explosion occurred while welding on, or near a hydraulic system on the vessel’s midship area. Tankers in lay up in the port of Montreal are usually in a gas free state, so the risk of a major fire was minimal.
The Thalassa Desgagnes is a familiar sight on the St Lawrence, ferrying around black petroleum products like residual fuel in and around Montreal, and points nearby. The vessel has a storied past, having been salvaged from a total loss back in 1990-1991, when she was known as the Rio Orinoco, a 9,748 DWT Asphalt & Bitumen Carrier.
Built in 1976, the MV Rio Orinoco, fully loaded with heavy tar, grounded off Anticosti Island, in Quebec’s Gulf of St Lawrence on October 16, 1990, and was abandoned. She was later salvaged by Le Groupe Desgagnes (1981) Inc, her cargo sold, and became the cornerstone of the modern day Transport Desgagnes shipping empire, based in Quebec City.
This accident is hopefully not an omen of things to come, as I believe the last year was quite a punishing one for the group. Both the Vegas Desgagnes, another tanker, and the Camilla Desgagnes suffered catastrophic engine failures; amongst other operational challenges. As with all shipping, the economic crisis hit them pretty hard, especially since they have just taken possession of various new vessels, at the tail end of their badly needed fleet revitalization program.
Also of interest to me, was that the Quebec (Levi) area Ultramar refinery reported two fire yesterday, occurring nearly simultaneously at the facility, just east of Levi, on the banks of the St Lawrence river. Groupe Desgagnes’s subsidiary, Montreal based Petronav, to who Thalassa Desgnages is chartered to, moves a large majority of Ultramar’s product on the St Lawrence. I sure hope this is not a prelude to our season this year.
MV Thalassa Desgagnes
Owner : Transport Desgagnes
Type of ship : Chemical/Oil Products Tanker
Year of build : 1976
Flag : Canada
Class: Lloyds Register
Gross Tonnage: 5,746 t
Net Tonnage: 3,864 t
Dead Weight Tonnage: 9,748 t
Length: 131.43 m
Breadth: 17.25 m
Depth: 9.21 m
Draught: 7.92 m
Self-Propelled Power: 5,000 brake horsepower
Speed: 12.5 knots